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Rwanda: Rusesabagina 25 year sentence upheld, prosecution appeal for life sentence rejected

Convicted individuals sit in the Court of Appeal as they wait for deliberations in Rwandan capital, Kigali on April 4, 2022.   -  
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Rwanda’s Court of Appeal on Monday upheld a 25-year prison term against “Hotel Rwanda” hero Paul Rusesabagina, who was convicted last year on charges of “terrorism”, rejecting a prosecution appeal to increase the penalty to life.

The court gave the ruling arguing that the “Hotel Rwanda” hero was a first-time offender, and 25 years sentence was in accordance with the weight of his crimes.

"The claim that Rusesabagina Paul confessed on charges and therefore can get reduced sentence is not valid, but since he is a first-time offender, the court finds that his sentence should not be increased, because the 25 years he was given is in accordance with the weight of his crimes, and the court maintains his sentence." Francois Regis Rukundakuvuga, Chief Judge at the Kigali Court of Appeal said.

The former hotel manager was not in court on Monday during the ruling. Earlier in the day and before the verdict, public prosecutor Jean Pierre Habarurema said "Given the significance of the charges of which Rusesabagina was convicted and the impact of those crimes on people and their assets, he should not be given a lenient sentence. He should be given life imprisonment".

Paul Rusessabagina had worked as the manager of a hotel in Kigali and helped shelter Hutu and Tutsi refugees there during the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

He was accused of supporting the National Liberation Front (FLN) an armed wing of his opposition political platform Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD), with the group claiming some responsibility for attacks in 2018 and 2019 in which nine Rwandans died. But Rusesabagina denies responsibility.

The 67 year old was arrested in August 2020 after what he described as a kidnapping from Dubai by Rwandan authorities.

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