KIGALI — Rwanda’s high court has started trial against Paul Rusesabagina, portrayed as a humanitarian activist in the controversial Oscar-nominated film “Hotel Rwanda,” for 13 charges including terrorism, financing terrorism and forming armed groups.
Rusesabagina on Wednesday appeared before the court in Kigali alongside 20 other co-accused, including former commander and spokesperson of the rebel group National Liberation Force (NLF) Callixte Nsabimana.
The 66-year-old during a pre-trial hearing had admitted to financing the group but denied involvement in the crimes it committed.
During his first trial, he questioned the jurisdiction of the Rwandan court over his Belgian citizenship and requested the court, through his lawyer, to send him back to Belgium to stand trial there, while the prosecution said the foreign citizenship is not immune from the trial in Rwanda’s court as long as he committed crimes on the Rwandan territory and asked Rusesabagina to produce evidence that he legally renounced the Rwandan nationality.
Nsabimana in the court confessed that he and Rusesabagina launched the rebel group FLN together. The judge adjourned the case to February 26. Rusesabagina was made famous by the film “Hotel Rwanda,” where he was portrayed to have saved over 1,000 ethnic Tutsis victims during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide against the Tutsi, which claimed over one million lives.
However, survivors and experts disputed the authenticity of Rusesabagina’s actual role during the genocide.
Until his arrest, Rusesabagina had long been living overseas and was the subject of an international arrest warrant for alleged terrorism, arson, kidnap and murder, perpetrated against civilians on Rwandan territory.