The European Union Parliament has called for the “immediate release” of Paul Rusesabagina, a Rwandan government critic detained in August last year.
Rusesabagina, a Hutu elite and renowned hotelier moved abroad after the genocide and won worldwide acclaim, receiving the United States’ highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 2005 for saving lives of ethnic Tutsi people during the civil war.
He was propelled to fame after the Oscar-nominated film “Hotel Rwanda” portrayed him using his connections with the Hutu elite to protect Tutsis fleeing slaughter during the 1994 genocide.
But back home, he sparked outrage with warnings of another genocide, this time by Tutsis against Hutus. He has drawn criticism from some genocide survivors and Kagame who accused him of exploiting the genocide for commercial gain.
He is also a founder of the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change, a coalition of opposition groups, which has an armed wing known as the National Liberation Front. The government accuses the rebel group of killing Rwandans in the country’s north.
His family says he was “kidnapped” by Rwandan security operatives during a visit to Dubai and flown back home in August last year.
In its resolution, which is non-binding, the EU legislators termed the arrest as “enforced disappearance”.
“The European Union Parliament strongly condemns the enforced disappearance, illegal rendition, and the incommunicado detention of Paul Rusesabagina and calls for his immediate release,” the resolution adopted on Thursday reads.
“The EU Parliament calls on the Rwandan government to show its willingness to conduct transparent, credible and independent investigations, and provide a complete and corroborated account of how Paul Rusesabagina was apprehended and transferred to Kigali.”
The 66-year-old former hotelier will answer to nine charges – reduced from 13 – related to financing terrorism, armed robbery, abduction, arson, attempted murder, assault, and battery and is due to appear in court this week.
The long-awaited trial will be held at the High Court Chamber for International and Cross-Border Crimes in Huye, Nyanza District, which is about a three-hour drive from Kigali.
Rusesabagina will be tried alongside 18 rebels suspected of conducting attacks in Rwanda in which nine people were killed in the southern province.