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Jailed Rwandan Gov’t Critic Paul Rusesabagina Paralyzed, Daughter Says

Rusesabagina is currently serving a 25-year prison term on terrorism charges after a trial his supporters say was a sham and riddled with irregularities.

Paul Rusesabagina, who was the subject of Oscar-nominated film Hotel Rwanda, has had a stroke in prison in Rwanda where he is serving time for terrorism, his daughter has told the BBC.

Rusesabagina is currently serving a 25-year prison term on terrorism charges after a trial his supporters say was a sham and riddled with irregularities.

“Right now my father is sick. He is being deprived of the proper medical treatment and he actually had a stroke in prison,” Carina Kanimba told BBC Focus on Africa radio.

“Now he has partial facial paralysis,” she added.

Rwanda denies that he was kidnapped and has said he received a fair trial.

Government Sued

Rusesabagina’s family announced at the weekend that they have filed a $400 million lawsuit in the United States over his alleged abduction and torture.

In a statement they said: “The complaint alleges that the Government of Rwanda and high-ranking Rwandan officials conspired to facilitate and execute an elaborate plot to lure Paul Rusesabagina from his home in Texas to Rwanda, where he would be tortured and illegally detained for the remainder of his life.”

The lawsuit was reportedly filed in a Washington DC court on 22 February. It was subsequently served on the Rwandan government on 8 March.

Rusesabagina’s family and lawyers are due to hold a press conference in Washington on Tuesday to announce further details of the suit, which is seeking at least $400 million (€380 million) in compensation as well as punitive damages.

President Kagame named

The lawsuit names the government of Rwanda, President Paul Kagame and other figures including the former justice minister and intelligence chief.

Rusesabagina, then a Kigali hotel manager, is credited with saving hundreds of lives during the 1994 genocide and his actions inspired the Hollywood film “Hotel Rwanda”.

He used his fame to denounce Kagame as a dictator and has been behind bars since his arrest in August 2020 when a plane he believed was bound for Burundi landed instead in Kigali.

Rusesabagina, who has a US green card as well as Belgian citizenship, was allegdly tricked into travelling from his US home with the promise of work in Burundi.

According to his family, Rusesabagina “was drugged and taken to Rwanda where President Paul Kagame’s security agents forcibly abducted him, tortured him, and forced him into illegal imprisonment.”

The Rwandan government has not commented on the case so far.

In September, Rusesabagina was convicted of involvement in a rebel group blamed for deadly gun, grenade and arson attacks in Rwanda in 2018 and 2019.

His 25-year jail term was upheld by Rwanda’s Court of Appeal in April, a ruling his family says is effectively a death sentence for the ailing 67-year-old.