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from PHYLLIS BIRORI in Kigali, Rwanda
KIGALI, (CAJ News) THE conviction of Paul Rusesabagina, the genocide era hero, has further driven a wedge between Rwanda and the United States.

A Rwandan court has convicted the 67-year-old on terrorism charges and slapped him with a 25 year prison sentence.

The US said it was “concerned” by the conviction of Rusesabagina, an American permanent resident.

“The reported lack of fair trial guarantees calls into question the fairness of the verdict,” said Ned Price, US Department of State spokesperson.

He said the US had consistently highlighted the importance of respect for all applicable legal protections throughout these proceedings.

Price said they raised concerns that these protections were not addressed in an impartial manner consistent with Rwanda’s international commitments.

He added the US was concerned by the objections Rusesabagina raised related to his lack of confidential, unimpeded access to his lawyers and relevant case documents and his initial lack of access to counsel.

“We urge the Government of Rwanda to take steps to examine these shortcomings in Mr Rusesabagina’s case and establish safeguards to prevent similar outcomes in the future,” Price said.

Rusesabagina worked as the manager of the Hôtel des Mille Collines in Kigali, during a period in which it housed 1 268 Hutu and Tutsi refugees from the Interahamwe militia during the Rwandan genocide.

None of these refugees were hurt or killed during the attacks.

Rusesabagina is affectionately known as the Hotel Rwanda hero.

Since leaving Rwanda in 1996, he has become a prominent critic of President Paul Kagame and the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) government.

He founded the PDR-Ihumure political party in 2006, and is currently President of the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change (RMDC), a foreign-based opposition group.

Rusesabagina was arrested in Kigali last August on nine charges of terrorism that related to his association with the National Liberation Front, the armed group that claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks in 2018 which killed at least nine people.

Rwanda’s government welcomed the verdict this week.

“This lengthy trial has exposed the terrorist activities of the FLN group led by Rusesabagina,” Yolande Makolo, a government spokesperson, was quoted as saying.

Relations between Rwanda and the US have previously been strained.

In 2013, America warned Rwanda to end its support for the March 23 Movement rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

In 2015, the US criticised a vote by Rwandan lawmakers to approve a change to their constitution to allow Kagame to serve a third term.

– CAJ News

 

Source of original article: News – CAJ News Africa (www.cajnewsafrica.com).
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