HOUSTON — The man who inspired the ‘Hotel Rwanda’ film and was freed from a terror sentence by Rwanda last week is scheduled to arrive in the United States on Wednesday, where he will be reunited with his family after more than two years in prison with one of the thing familiar person.
Paul Rusesabagina’s arrival in the United States was expected this week. White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told journalists Monday that Rusesabagina was in Doha, Qatar and was making his way back to the United States
The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning, said Rusesabagina would arrive in Houston by plane Wednesday afternoon and then be taken to a military hospital in San Antonio.
Rusesabagina, 68, a legal US resident and Belgian citizen, has been credited with killing more than 1,000 ethnic Tutsis during the 1994 Rwanda genocide who were trying to protect them to have accommodated hotel managed by him. For his efforts, he received the US Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Rusesabagina disappeared while visiting Dubai in the United Arab Emirates in 2020, and turned up handcuffed in Rwanda days later. His family claimed he was abducted and taken to Rwanda against his will to face trial.
In 2021, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison after being convicted in Rwanda of eight counts, including membership of a terrorist organization, murder and kidnapping, following the widely criticized trial.
Last week, Rwanda’s government commuted his sentence after diplomatic intervention by the United States on his behalf.
Rusesabagina had been accused of supporting the armed wing of his opposition political platform, the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change. The armed group claimed responsibility for attacks in southern Rwanda in 2018 and 2019 that left nine Rwandans dead.
Rusesabagina testified in court that he helped form the armed group to help refugees, but said he never supported violence – and tried to distance himself from their deadly attacks.
Rusesabagina has claimed his arrest was in response to his criticism of longtime President Paul Kagame over alleged human rights abuses. Kagame’s government has repeatedly denied targeting dissenting voices with arrests and extrajudicial killings.
Rusesabagina became a public critic of Kagame and left Rwanda in 1996, living first in Belgium and then in the United States
His arrest sparked tensions with the US and others, while Rwanda’s government was also under pressure over tensions with neighboring Congo and Britain’s plan to deport asylum-seekers to the small East African country.
Human rights activists and others had urged the Rwandan authorities to release him, saying his health was poor.
In October, the ailing Rusesabagina signed a letter to Kagame, published on the Justice Department’s website, in which she said he would have no personal or political ambitions if he were granted a pardon and released to live in the United States live, and “I will leave questions regarding Rwanda’s politics behind me.”
Last year US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Kagame in Rwanda and discussed the case.
White House National Security Council spokesman Kirby said US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan was personally involved in the case and “really did the last bit of heavy lifting to get Paul released and to get him on his way home “.
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