Rwanda says it has arrested Paul Rusesabagina – the man who was hailed a hero in a Hollywood movie about the country's 1994 genocide – on terrorism charges and paraded him in front of the media in handcuffs.

Paul Rusesabagina did not speak with media but he has said in the past he is the victim of a smear campaign in Rwanda.
Paul Rusesabagina did not speak with media but he has said in the past he is the victim of a smear campaign in Rwanda. (Reuters)

Paul Rusesabagina, portrayed in the film "Hotel Rwanda" as a hero who saved the lives of more than 1,200 people from the country's 1994 genocide, has been arrested by the Rwandan government on terror charges. 

In handcuffs and a facemask, Rusesabagina, 66, was shown to the press in Rwanda's capital, Kigali, on Monday by police. He has not yet been formally charged in court.

Two police officers brought the 66-year-old to a press conference at the headquarters of the Rwanda Investigations Bureau and let the media film him and take photographs.

Rusesabagina did not speak. He has said in the past he is the victim of a smear campaign in Rwanda.

The bureau said on Twitter he had been arrested "through international cooperation", and had been the subject of an international arrest warrant, without going into further details.

Genocide warning

Rusesabagina, a critic of President Paul Kagame, moved abroad after the genocide and won worldwide acclaim, receiving the United States’ highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 2005.

But back home he has sparked outrage with warnings of another genocide, this time by Tutsis against Hutus.

"Rusesabagina is suspected to be the founder, leader, sponsor and member of violent, armed, extremist terror outfits including the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD) operating out of various places in the region and abroad," police said.

Allegations of serious crimes

There was an international arrest warrant for Rusesabagina to answer charges of serious crimes including terrorism, arson, kidnap and murder, perpetrated against unarmed, innocent Rwandan civilians on Rwandan territory, police said. 

Police told the media in Kigali that investigations against Rusesabagina will continue and more information will be released about his alleged activities.

Rusesabagina has previously denied the government's charges that he financially supports Rwandan rebels.

Rusesabagina has been a prominent critic of Kagame’s government, calling it a dictatorship and urging Western countries to press the government to respect human rights.

Government supporters reject Rusesabagina’s criticism, saying Kagame's leadership supports democracy and economic growth.

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Role in Rwandan genocide

The 2004 film "Hotel Rwanda" showed Rusesabagina, a Hutu married to a Tutsi, as using his influence as a manager of the Hotel des Mille Collines, to allow more than 1,200 Tutsis to shelter in the hotel's rooms. In the film, Rusesabagina was played by actor Don Cheadle.

The Rwandan government disputes Rusesabagina’s story about saving survivors at a hotel in Kigali, during the genocide.

He has drawn criticism from some genocide survivors and Kagame who accused him of exploiting the genocide for commercial gain.

Naphatal Ahishakiye, executive secretary of Ibuka, a Rwanda survivors' organisation, said that Rusesabagina's arrest is good news for survivors of the genocide. 

Ahishakiye said Rusesabagina had charged people money to be able to survive in the hotel.

In 2010, the prosecutor general told Reuters news agency that authorities had evidence Rusesabagina had funded terrorist groups, though no charges were brought.

Authorities have since said he had a role in a string of alleged attacks by National Liberation Front rebels in southern Rwanda along the border with Burundi in 2018.

Rusesabagina denies allegations

Rusesabagina, whose father was Hutu but mother and wife were Tutsi, has denied exaggerating his role in rescuing Tutsis.

About 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were butchered in 100 days in the central African nation from April 6, 1994.

Soldiers of the then Hutu-led government and ethnic militia allies orchestrated the genocide in which victims were hacked to death with machetes, burned alive, or shot.

The killings ended when Tutsi rebels, led by Kagame, seized control and triggered an exodus of more than two million Hutus. 

READ MORE: Home remains no-go area for many Rwandan refugees 25 years after genocide

Source: TRTWorld and agencies