Rwanda: Opposition leader Paul Rusesabagina released

Paul Rusesabagina. © Clement Uwiringiyimana/Reuters

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Paul Rusesabagina, a fierce opponent of President Paul Kagame and hero of the film "Hotel Rwanda", was released Friday night. It was handed over to Qatar's ambassador before he returned to the United States, a U.S. official said.


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With our correspondent in Kigali, Lucie Mouillaud

In Kigali, a presidential pardon for Paul Rusesabagina. The announcement was made this Friday afternoon by the government. The fervent opponent of Paul Kagame's regime, who inspired the film Hotel Rwanda which traces the journey of a Righteous man who hides Tutsis during the 1994 genocide, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for terrorism in September 2021. He was released on Friday evening, March 24 and handed over.

His release had been under negotiation for several months. Paul Rusesabagina finally had his 25-year prison sentence commuted by presidential order, after writing a letter dated last October asking for a pardon from President Paul Kagame. "He is asking for this presidential pardon, again with his family and lawyers and that he will not resume his political activities, especially with regard to Rwanda. All this has been examined by the government," said Alain Mukuralinda, deputy spokesman for the Rwandan government.

In his letter, Paul Rusesabagina promises, if pardoned, to return discreetly to live with his family in the United States, where he had permanent resident status before his arrest in 2020. A return that will first have to be granted by the Rwandan Ministry of Justice. "The procedure says that if you want to leave the country, you still have to apply for permission. It should also be remembered that if you relapse or relapse into the same offences, you take back the sentence and if you have been sentenced to pay a fine, at that time, the fines remain.


According to the Rwandan government, discussions with the United States about the imprisonment of Paul Rusesabagina, "wrongly detained", according to Washington, were facilitated by Qatar, where President Paul Kagame was visiting earlier this week. Washington is "grateful" to Rwanda for having released him, said the head of US diplomacy, Antony Blinken. This case has long been a source of contention between Kigali and Washington.

Paul Rusesabagin was tried in 2021 on nine charges, including terrorism, for attacks carried out by the FLN. The opponent has always denied any involvement.

With him, 19 people convicted of terrorism are concerned by these commutations of sentences.

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  • Rwanda
  • United States
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