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RWANDA: 25 years in prison for Paul Rusesabagina, Hotel Rwanda’s hero

25 years in prison for Paul Rusesabagina, Hotel Rwanda’s hero 

 

HRWF with family (20.09.2021) – Yesterday, 20 September,  the Show Trial of Paul Rusesabagina, a 67-year old Belgian/ Rwandan citizen, ended with a guilty verdict on eight of nine charges and was sentenced to 25 years prison. A guilty verdict was expected from the beginning. Paul was pre-judged by the Rwandan regime years ago as a human rights critic and perceived enemy of the state. The only question was whether the Rwandan government would attempt to make themselves look better by finding him not guilty on some charges, or by limiting the sentence. An innocent man, kidnapped and held as a political prisoner, was wrongfully convicted today.

 

The Rusesabagina family released the following statement after the verdict was announced: 

“Our husband and father, Paul Rusesabagina, was kidnapped, tortured and held in solitary confinement. He was forced to undergo a show trial this past year. We knew from the day he was kidnapped that the verdict would be “guilty” on some or all of the false charges. We are happy that the charade of the trial is ending.  

 

Paul Rusesabagina is a humanitarian who crusades for the human rights and liberties of the Rwandan people. He has been a critic of every Rwandan regime when they have abused human rights. He has criticized Paul Kagame’s human rights abuses for nearly two decades.  Kagame made it clear over that time that one of his main goals was to silence our father. He is in a dictator’s clutches. They have finished this sham by finding him guilty today. We have told the world over and over that there is no fair trial process in Rwanda, and the past months have shown that. There is no independent judiciary, and there will be no justice for our father. All we can do now is make this clear to everyone – a dictator will be jailing a humanitarian this week. If the international community does not step in, he will probably be in jail for the rest of his life.”

 

The allegations of founding, supporting and funding terrorist groups were never proven in court. No credible evidence was provided on any charge. Sadly this is par for the course in Rwanda, where an independent judiciary does not exist in high profile cases. There is no rule of law there. Paul was found guilty because of politics, not because of any legal proceedings or evidence. And politics in Rwanda are such that no one, inside or outside of the country, dares to challenge the record or the actions of the government or President Paul Kagame. 

Rusesabagina’s legal team was unsurprised by the verdict. American lawyer Peter Choharis notes that: “In truth, the verdict was delivered long ago: the trial has been fundamentally unfair and has lacked due process. And despite that, the prosecution still did not produce any evidence linking Paul to the attacks in question.”

Australian lawyer Kate Gibson said that: “Paul Rusesabagina’s inevitable conviction is the end of a script that was written even before he was kidnapped in August 2020.  The only thing that has been surprising in watching this horror show unfold over the last year, has been the brazenness and openness with which the Rwandan authorities have been willing to systematically violate all of the fair trial rights to which Paul was entitled.”

 

Canadian lawyer Philippe Larochelle, reflecting on the verdict, stated “this trial started with kidnapping, torture and denial of legal representation.  Once local lawyers were appointed, they had no time to prepare for trial.  Some co-accused detailed how they had been forced into making false accusations against Rusesabagina. Witnesses who had made false allegations in the sham trial against Victoire Ingabire were simply recycled in this trial.  The whole Rwanda opus in the end raised only one question: why kidnap, torture and deny fair trial rights if you have reliable evidence supporting the allegations against the accused?  The answer is quite obvious: there is not a shred of reliable evidence. There is no other explanation for the absence of due process and complete disregard for Rusesabagina’s most fundamental rights.”  

 

Bob Hilliard, lawyer on the GainJet lawsuit said, “Kangaroo Courts are only capable of kangaroo verdicts. Paul’s bravery in Rwanda was undeniable. Yet now,  a proud  life’s work against a strong man rests in the corrupt hands of the worst kind of leader, someone who is a stranger to the truth and  rules a wasteland of his own making. Paul should be immediately released and the World join together to condemn this puppet court and its mendacious puppeteer.”

 

 

Specifics from the verdict:

 

In court today in Kigali, the judges read a long verdict against Paul and the co-accused. The only surprises came when additional “evidence” was fabricated in the verdict that was not was not heard before in court, including in any document or statements submitted during the trial. This featured multiple accusations that Paul funded terrorist activities not previously discussed. In particular, there was a brand new allegation that Paul fund raised over 300,000 euros for the FLN. 

 

On the guilty charges, the vast majority of the “evidence” cited by the court came from two sources: statements made by Paul under duress in late August and early September, and the Belgian dossier. These statements were allegedly made by Paul shortly after he was tortured and without benefit of any counsel present. Paul’s first statements in open court included denying that this testimony was accurate and clarifying that he was forced to sign the documents. The court also made various claims about evidence that they received from Belgium in the “Belgian dossier.” This was the conclusion of the Belgian investigation into Paul’s activities, made at the request of Rwanda starting in 2019. Accusations included WhatsApp messages and emails that the court purports show Paul’s guilt. Paul’s team has access to and has reviewed this document. As expected, none of the supposed “evidence” mentioned in the court’s ruling exists. The Rwandan government apparently does not expect others to read this dossier, and thus is claiming evidence from it that is completely fabricated.

 

Underlying this entire case is the fact that the Rwandan prosecutors claim that three attacks were perpetrated against Rwandan civilians by the FLN, and these are blamed on the MRCD and Paul Rusesabagina by association. These attacks were NEVER documented in court. No credible evidence was ever provided that these attacks occurred. No evidence was provided at all outside of statements by the prosecutors without documentation, and some coerced statements from the co-accused. These are the same attacks that Paul and the MRCD leadership denied when they occurred. The MRCD in late 2019 argued strongly that the Rwandan government was behind the attacks, and called for international investigations by the United Nations to find the truth. Victims during the trial described being attacked, but never identified the attackers. Paul and the co-accused were not identified by anyone as attackers. And the FLN was not identified as the group that committed the attacks.

 

All charges in this case are based on the existence of these alleged attacks. No credible evidence was presented that these attacks ever happened. If they did not occur, the entire trial is a fraud. 

 

Background on the trial is available at: https://www.prlog.org/12886050.html

 

 

What happens next? 

 

As the trial concludes, the Rusesabagina family and team are looking forward to the next steps needed to free Paul. As Belgian lawyer Vincent Lurquin notes, “Paul is a political prisoner, so the solution must be political.”  

 

There was no fair trial in the case of Paul Rusesabagina. Anyone who understands politics in Rwanda knew from the start that this was never a possibility. Justice in Rwanda for high level critics of President Paul Kagame is a political process, and all answers go through the office of the President. 

 

Now is the time for the world community to step up and stand up for human rights in Rwanda. Paul Rusesabagina and the rest of the Rwandan people were abandoned by the world during the genocide in 1994. Paul’s family urges the world to not abandon him again. 

 

Now that the trial is over, an innocent man sits in jail, waiting for the world to hold Rwanda to account for the appalling and profound violations of his human and legal rights. In 1994, Rusesabagina reached out to the international community to help stop the Genocide. They were silent. Will they be silent again, or will they stand up for human rights and real justice. 

 

Contact: Kitty Kurth

Phone: 312-617-7288

Email: kittykurth@me.com

 

###

 

On September 21, 2021 the legal team and family will hold a press conference to go over the trial and verdict in the case of Paul Rusesabagina. 

 

The press conference will be held in person on Tuesday, September 21 at 2:00 pm in Brussels, Belgium at Rue Froissart 95, 1000 Brussels at the Press Club. The conference will also be broadcast live on Zoom. You will find the instructions to register for the Zoom webinar at the end of this email. The video will also be posted on Facebook. 

 

  To RSVP for the Press Club press conference in person please email kitty@kurthlampe.com

  (Just a reminder, 2:00 pm Brussels is 8:00 am in Washington, DC)  

 

To RSVP for the virtual press conference please register here: 

https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_vaz6xj1dQqGJjZ8_b0JxZA

The press conference will also be available to be viewed on the #FreeRusesabagina Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FreePaulRusesabagina

 

Background 

In late August, 2020, Paul Rusesabagina, the international human rights icon whose story of saving 1,268 people during the Rwandan Genocide was told in the film Hotel Rwanda, was flown against his will from Dubai, United Arab Emirates to Kigali, Rwanda. He has been on trial in Rwanda since February 17, 2021 and the verdict is expected on September 20, 2021. 

 

 

#FreeRusesabagina 

Website:                      www.hrrfoundation.com

Twitter:                       @freethehero 

Facebook:                   @FreePaulRusesabagina 

Instagram:                   #FreeRusesabagina

TikTok:                       #FreeRusesabagina   

 

 

Photo credits: The Guardian





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RWANDA: Kidnapping and illegal extradition of the Hotel Rwanda movie hero: Complaint against Gain Jet

Paul Rusesabagina, a Belgian citizen of Rwandan origin, who saved 1,268 people during the Rwandan Genocide languishes in Kagamé’s prisons.

 

HRWF (17.12.2020) – A complaint has been filed against aviation company GainJet for their role in the kidnapping and illegal transfer from Dubai to Rwanda of Paul Rusesabagina, who saved 1268 people during the Rwandan genocide in his hotel in Kigali. Since then, he has been detained in appalling conditions in Rwanda.  This is what was announced at a virtual press conference on 15 December 2020 by the family and their legal representatives. Human Rights Without Frontiers calls upon the Belgian government and the European Union to use all means at their disposal to urgently secure his release. His trial is expected at the end of January.

 

Press release 

 

In late August 2020, the international human rights icon whose story of saving 1,268 people during the Rwandan Genocide as told in the film Hotel Rwanda, was flown by GainJet against his will from Dubai, United Arab Emirates to Kigali, Rwanda.  Paul boarded the GainJet flight expecting to travel to Burundi, where he believed he was going to speak at churches and public gatherings about his experiences with the Rwandan genocide at the invitation of Constantin Niyomwungere (the Bishop), who is also named in the lawsuit.

 

For years, Paul has been targeted by the Rwandan government for speaking out about human rights abuses perpetrated by the regime of President Kagame. Threats against him further increased as he became an internationally known humanitarian.  Paul left Rwanda two decades ago, gaining Belgian citizenship and lawful permanent resident status in the United States where he has a home in San Antonio, Texas. Out of fear for his life, Paul previously swore never to return to Kigali while there is a brutal dictator in power but continued his life’s work dedicated to bringing peace and democracy to Rwanda and motivating governments, nongovernmental organizations, and ordinary people to work together to prevent genocide throughout the world. He longed to be able to return to Rwanda but only when there is sustainable peace in both his homeland and the Great Lakes Region of Africa.

 

GainJet has previously run charters carrying President Kagame, including bringing him to the U.S. where he enjoys freedoms while at the same time behaving like a strongman dictator in Rwanda. The Africa base of GainJet’s operations is in Rwanda with their main headquarters located in Athens, Greece.

 

“Transportation is the key element in a kidnapping and GainJet was the only reason Paul was able to be successfully and illegally taken to Rwanda. There is proof that the invoices from GainJet were paid for by the government of Rwanda. Bank robbers use getaway cars, Kagame used GainJet,” said lead attorney Bob Hilliard of Texas-based Hilliard Martinez Gonzales LLP. “The wrongful kidnapping of Paul Rusesabagina,  international human rights icon and U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, is a world issue. As the Rev. Martin Luther King recognized ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’”

 

“GainJet had an independent responsibility as an international jet charter service to protect the safety of all of their passengers, not just those paying the bills. Paul has confirmed that while he was on the GainJet flight, he was bound and tied before it landed in Rwanda. Despite this, GainJet and its employees and agents did not issue any international ‘Mayday’ call or ‘squawk ‘7700” on the radio — the internationally recognized code for distress or an emergency situation in flight. The pilots had to know they were taking part in a kidnapping,” added Hilliard.

 

The complaint was filed in federal court in San Antonio, Texas. View Rusesabagina Complaint Against GainJet.

 

“In a world increasingly beset by false narratives, manufactured ambiguity, and fake news, the legal system and lawsuits like this one become even more important. We are going to shine a lot of light on this situation. And I think the facts will show that Paul Kagame is a tyrant, not a president, that Constantin Niyomwungere is a criminal, not a Bishop, and that GainJet is better described as a flying prison cell than a private jet charter,” said attorney Nicholas Shadowen of Hilliard Shadowen LLP.

 

Attorneys Robert Hilliard of Hilliard Martinez Gonzales LLP and Nicholas Shadowen of Hilliard Shadowen LLP were joined at the virtual press conference by Paul’s wife Tatiana Rusesabagina and two of his adult children, Anaïse Kanimba and Roger Rusesabagina. Participants also included Dr. Brian Endless, a political science professor at Loyola University-Chicago and senior adviser for the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation and moderator Kitty Kurth, president of Kurth Lampe Worldwide, an international public affairs firm that has represented Paul Rusesabagina for over a decade.

 

A recording of the press conference can be viewed on the #FreeRusesabagina Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FreePaulRusesabagina.

 

#FreeRusesabagina

Website: www.hrrfoundation.com

Twitter: @freethehero

Facebook: @FreePaulRusesabagina

Instagram: #FreeRusesabagina

TikTok: #FreeRusesabagina

Photo: Paul Rusesabagina, who was portrayed in the film “Hotel Rwanda,” visited Washington in January 2016 to promote democracy and human rights in Rwanda. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post).


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