Paul Rusesabagina: Hotel Rwanda hero ‘abducted in Dubai’
The daughter of Paul Rusesabagina, who was portrayed in a Hollywood film about the Rwandan genocide, has appealed for help to secure his release, saying she believes he was abducted from Dubai.
Rwandan officials said on Monday that Mr Rusesabagina had been arrested under an international warrant for leading “terrorist movements”.
Mr Rusesabagina’s daughter told the BBC the allegation was false.
Her father was a human rights advocate, Anaise Kanimba added.
Mr Rusesabagina, 66, is a strong critic of Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame.
The family last heard from Mr Rusesabagina after he landed in Dubai on Thursday, Ms Kanimba said.
He lived in exile, and was a US resident and a Belgian citizen, she added.
“So we would love these two places to help us get him home.
“The charges they have on him are baseless,” Ms Kanimba added in a BBC Newsday interview.
The authorities in Rwanda paraded the arrested man in front of journalists in Kigali on Monday, but did not give details about where he was arrested or what specific charges he would face.
Mr Rusesabagina, who is from the Hutu ethnic group, became well known after the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda depicted his efforts to save hundreds of Tutsis at his hotel during the 1994 genocide.
About 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in the genocide.
They were killed by Hutu extremists who were forced from power by Mr Kagame and his Tutsi-dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).
What else did his daughter say?
“We are not aware of how he got there [to Rwanda] and how this happened,” Ms Kanimba told the BBC.
“This is why we believe he was kidnapped because he would never go to Rwanda on his own will.”
She said the body language of her father following his arrest suggested that he was “staying strong and he doesn’t want us to know that he is beaten and even if they have him he’s going to show us that he’s going to continue fighting”.
Rwandan officials said on Monday that Mr Rusesabagina had been detained following “international co-operation”. Dubai’s government has not yet commented.
Why was he arrested now?
Mr Rusesabagina’s name featured recently in a terrorism case in Rwanda. The court heard allegations that a Rwandan rebel group, the National Liberation Front (FLN), had received help from Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu because of his close friendship with Mr Rusesabagina.
Mr Lungu’s spokesman denied the allegation in a BBC interview.
In 2011, Mr Rusesabagina was accused of funding subversion in Rwanda, but no charges were brought.
At the time, he denied any wrongdoing.
President Kagame’s critics accuse him of not tolerating any opposition. Several opposition leaders have been jailed and others fled into exile. The president says he is trying to prevent a return of ethnic hatred.
What is Hotel Rwanda about?
The 2004 film told the story of how Mr Rusesabagina, a middle-class Hutu married to a Tutsi, used his influence – and bribes – to convince military officials to secure a safe escape for an estimated 1,200 people who sought shelter at the Mille Collines Hotel in Kigali.
Don Cheadle played Mr Rusesabagina in the film.
Rwandan genocide survivors’ group Ibuka has in the past said that he exaggerated his own role in helping hotel refugees escape the 100-day slaughter.
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In 2007, Mr Rusesabagina said a UN-backed war crimes court should put some members of the RPF on trial for their alleged role in the genocide.
“I’m just a normal person. But I’ve always defended human rights,” he said at the time.
“I’m trying to be the voice of millions of Rwandese who have no-one to speak out for them.”