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The man who inspired the 2004 Don Cheadle-starring film Hotel Rwanda was found guilty on Monday of terrorism-related charges.
ABC News reports that Paul Rusesabagina, 67, was found guilty of backing a rebel group behind deadly attacks in 2018 and 2019. Rusesabagina has been sentenced to 25 years in prison.
“Rusesabagina is guilty of being a member of terror group MRCD-FLN and participating in terror activities,” Judge Beatrice Mukamurenzi said. “His act of terrorism led to death. They attacked people in their homes, or even in their cars on the road traveling.”
The U.S. resident and Belgian citizen was facing a life sentence on nine charges, including terrorism, arson, taking hostages and forming an armed rebel group. He was convicted of eight charges.
But the trial was widely criticized by human rights groups, who say that Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, didn’t give Rusesabagina a fair trial, and had no grounds to arrest him in the first place.
“We are happy that the charade of the trial is ending,” the Rusesabagina family told ABC News in a statement ahead of the verdict. “We have told the world over and over that there is no fair trial process in Rwanda, and the past months have shown that. There is no independent judiciary, and there will be no justice for our father. All we can do now is make this clear to everyone – a dictator will be jailing a humanitarian.”
Rusesabagina’s heroic efforts during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which he helped save the lives of his family and more than 1,000 other refugees by providing them with shelter in the Hotel Mille Collines, inspired the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda.
Directed by Terry George, the movie was nominated for multiple Academy Awards, including Best Actor (Cheadle), Best Supporting (Sophie Okonedo), and Best Original Screenplay (George, Keir Pearson).