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Hotel Rwanda film hero held on terror charges

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Paul Rusesabagina – known for saving more than 1,000 people in the hotel he managed during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, a story later told into the Hollywood film Hotel Rwanda – has been arrested on terror charges.

The Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) said in a statement on Monday the 66-year-old government critic had been arrested abroad in an unnamed location on an international warrant and taken to the country to face charges “of serious crime including terrorism, arson, kidnap and murder”.

The announcement came as officers brought Rusesabagina – in handcuffs and a face mask – to the RIB’s headquarters in the capital, Kigali, where he was shown to the press. Rusesabagina did not speak to the media.

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“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.

The 2004 Oscar-nominated 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 US actor Don Cheadle.

About 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered in 100 days in Rwanda from April 6.

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A well-known critic of President Paul Kagame, Rusesabagina had been living outside Rwanda since 1996, including in Belgium and the United States. He has won several international honours, including the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, which President George W Bush awarded him in 2005.

Back home, however, Rusesabagina remains a “hugely controversial figure” where his status as a rescue hero in 1994 has been contested by a range of actors, according to senior lecturer Nicola Palmer at King’s College London.—AL JAZEERA

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