Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Wednesday criticized the United States over the concerns it has raised in the case of Paul Rusesabagina, a US permanent resident jailed in Rwanda who was portrayed as a hero in the film “Hotel Rwanda”.
Rusesabagina, 67, was sentenced last year to 25 years in prison over eight terrorism charges tied to an organization opposed to Kagame’s rule. He has denied all the charges and refused to take part in the trial that he and his supporters have called a political sham.
Kagame, who was in Washington for President Joe Biden’s US-Africa summit and spoke at a Semafor news event there, questioned why Rwanda should release Rusesabagina because he is famous and a permanent resident of the United States.
Kagame also questioned what his release would mean for the 20 others tried with him.
When asked if he would have a bilateral meeting with Biden, Kagame said he was not sure yet.
The United States in May determined that Rusesabagina had been “wrongfully detained,” noting a lack of fair trial guarantees during Rusesabagina’s trial.
Asked whether US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s advocacy is helping or hurting Rusesabagina’s case, Kagame said: “I think from what I am saying you can conclude.”
The US State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Rwanda’s foreign minister, Vincent Biruta, has said he was convicted lawfully, but Rusesabagina has denied all the charges and refused to take part in a trial that he and his supporters have called a political sham.
Rusesabagina, who was feted around the world after being portrayed by actor Don Cheadle in the 2004 film “Hotel Rwanda,” is a vocal critic of Kagame.
Rusesabagina has acknowledged having a leadership role in the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD), a group opposed to Kagame’s rule, but denied responsibility for violence carried out by its armed wing, the National Liberation Front (FLN).
Twenty other defendants tried with him included Callixte Nsabimana, popularly known as Sankara, a spokesman for the FLN. He told the court that Rusesabagina was not a member of the armed wing. But judges said the two groups were indistinguishable, referring to them as the MRCD-FLN. Nsabimana received 20 years.