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Paul Rusesabagina: President denies Hotel Rwanda hero was kidnapped



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image captionPaul Rusesabagina was paraded in handcuffs on Monday

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame has said the man who inspired a Hollywood film about the 1994 genocide returned to the country of his own accord before being arrested for murder and terrorism.

Paul Rusesabagina’s family allege the political exile was kidnapped in Dubai and taken to Rwanda, where he was paraded in handcuffs this week.

The opposition figure has been accused of supporting rebels in Rwanda.

His work to save lives was depicted in the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda.

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As a hotel manager, the Hutu helped save hundreds of Tutsis from the genocide, in which about 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed.

They were killed by Hutu extremists, who were forced from power by President Kagame and his Tutsi-dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) after 100 days of killing.

Today the Rwandan authorities say the role of Mr Rusesabagina, 66, was exaggerated. However, he has received several human rights awards – including the US Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.

How did Kagame explain Rusesabagina’s return?

Speaking on national TV, the president said: “Let me eliminate the word ‘kidnap’ because that was not the case.

“Rusesabagina will attest to that himself. There was no kidnap, there was no any wrongdoing in the process of his getting here.”

He did not suggest what might have prompted Mr Rusesabagina to return, only saying: “He got here on the basis of what he believed he wanted to do and he found himself here.”

But his niece and adopted daughter, Carine Kanimba, told AFP news agency that he had been in Dubai for meetings before suddenly turning up in handcuffs in the Rwandan capital Kigali.

“I don’t know how he got to Rwanda,” she said. “However he would never have done that by his own free will, because he knows that in Rwanda they want him dead.”

Why was he arrested now?

Mr Rusesabagina’s name featured recently in a terrorism case in Rwanda. The court heard allegations that the National Liberation Front rebel group had received help from Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu because of his close friendship with Mr Rusesabagina.

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionDon Cheadle (L) played Mr Rusesabagina (R) in the film

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 and said there was a smear campaign against him.

President Kagame’s critics accuse him of not tolerating any opposition. Several opposition leaders have been jailed and others fled into exile. He says he is trying to prevent a return of ethnic hatred.

What is Hotel Rwanda about?

The 2004 film Hotel Rwanda 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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media captionBetween April and July 1994, an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were killed in the space of 100 days.

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.”

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