Rwanda's President Paul Kagame has lifted the prison sentence on "Hotel Rwanda" hero Paul Rusesabagina convicted of terrorism. Rwandan government spokeswoman Yolande Makolo announced on Friday that Rusesabagina will be released from prison on Saturday. In addition, 18 convicted accomplices are also to be released.
The 68-year-old Rusesabagina became a symbol of humanity during the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, particularly through the Hollwood film "Hotel Rwanda". Rusesabagina took more than 1,200 Tutsi into his hotel and saved their lives. In recent years, however, some of the survivors have also criticized Rusesabagina, who profited from the genocide as a hotel manager. Rusesabagina has denied this.
In August 2020, Rusesabagina, a declared opponent of long-term president and autocrat Kagama, was arrested in Rwanda's capital Kigali. A year later he was sentenced to a long prison term for alleged terrorist activities. Makolo pointed out that the verdict remained in place despite the release from prison: "There is agreement that serious crimes were committed."
The US government confirmed that Rusesabagina would leave Rwanda for the US. That's "good news," said a US government official. Months of talks preceded the agreement. The US had taken on an intermediary role in the negotiations between Rusesabagina and the Rwandan government.