Hotel Rwanda hero jailing sparks row with Belgium

Africa

Rwanda has called off high-level talks with Belgium, in the latest twist to a diplomatic row over the conviction of the man who inspired a Hollywood film about the 1994 genocide.

In a statement, Rwanda said Belgium had shown “contempt” for its justice system after it criticised the 25-year prison sentence handed down to Paul Rusesabagina – a Belgian citizen of Rwandan origin – for terrorism.

Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta was due to meet Belgium’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sophie Wilmes on the side-line of the UN General Assembly in New York this week, but the meeting has now been cancelled.

67-year-old Rusesabagina was found guilty on Monday of backing a rebel group involved in deadly attacks in Rwanda in 2018 and 2019.

Wilmes said he did not receive “a just and fair trial”.

In the Oscar-nominated movie Hotel Rwanda, Rusesabagina, played by Don Cheadle, was shown as a hotel manager who managed to protect more than 1,200 people who had sought shelter during the genocide.

In a period of 100 days from April 1994, 800,000 people, mostly from the Tutsi ethnic group, were slaughtered by extremists from the Hutu community.

Some survivors have gone on to question the version of events in the 2005 film.

The US, where Rusesabagina’s family lives, also questioned whether he got a fair trial.

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