Rwanda is set to release dissident Paul Rusesabagina, who was portrayed as a hero in the Oscar-nominated movie Hotel Rwanda after President Paul Kagame issued a pardon, the government announced Friday.
Rusesabagina, 68, was convicted on multiple counts in September 2021 in a trial he boycotted claiming there was “unfairness and a lack of independence.”
The conviction was related to acts of terrorism committed by the National Liberation Front (FLN) rebel group in 2018, which claimed the lives of nine civilians in southwest Rwanda.
Rwanda’s appeals court last April upheld a 25-year prison sentence for Rusesabagina following an appeal by the prosecution.
A statement by the Justice Ministry said the sentence has been “commuted by presidential order after consideration of a request for clemency.”
Rusesabagina will be released along with 19 members of his group, including Callixte Nsabimana, aka Sankara, who was a spokesman for the FLN and had been sentenced to 15 years, according to the statement.
The government warned that if beneficiaries of the pardon repeat offenses of similar nature, the commutation can be revoked.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken while visiting Rwanda in August, said he discussed with Kagame the trial and imprisonment of Rusesabagina.