Africa

Family of Hotel Rwanda hero launches $400m lawsuit over his alleged abduction

The family of Hotel Rwanda hero Paul Rusesabagina has filed a $400m lawsuit in the US over his alleged abduction and torture.

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

“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 family and his lawyers said in a statement on Saturday.

A copy of the lawsuit seen by AFP indicates that it was filed in a Washington DC court on 22 February. It was served on the Rwandan government on 8 March.

Rusesabagina’s family and lawyers will hold a press conference in Washington on Wednesday to announce further details of the suit, which is seeking at least $400m in compensation as well as punitive damages.

The lawsuit names the government of Rwanda, its 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.

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

“Instead, he 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 government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Rusesabagina was convicted in September 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 earlier this month, a ruling his family says is effectively a death sentence for the ailing 67-year-old.

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