‘Hotel Rwanda’ hero Rusesabagina freed from prison after US, Qatar role

The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Paul Rusesabagina is a US permanent resident made famous by the 2004 film ‘Hotel Rwanda’, about his role saving Tutsis during the 1994 genocide.

The release of Paul Rusesabagina from a Rwandan prison late on Friday was the result of months of negotiations between Washington and Kigali, with both eager to draw a line under what they described as an “irritant” to their relationship.

Two US officials – one from President Joe Biden’s administration and a Congressional aide – said no concrete concessions were made to secure the release of Rusesabagina, a US permanent resident made famous by the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda, about his role saving Tutsis during the 1994 genocide.

He was moved from Nyarugenge Prison to the embassy of Qatar, which played a key role as an intermediary, US officials said.

Rusesabagina was detained in 2019 and subsequently convicted on eight terrorism charges stemming from his leadership role in the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD), whose armed wing, the National Liberation Front (FLN), has attacked Rwanda.

His detention strained relations between the two countries. The US has said Rusesabagina was unlawfully detained, while Rwanda has bristled at the criticism, saying it would not be intimidated.

The US allocated more than $147 million in foreign assistance to Rwanda in 2021, making it Rwanda’s largest bilateral donor.

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