Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient Faces Terror Charges

Paul Rusesabagina, depicted as hero in 'Hotel Rwanda,' is in custody in Kigali
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 31, 2020 12:10 PM CDT
He Was the Hero in Hotel Rwanda . Now, Terror Charges
In this Nov. 9, 2005, file photo, then-President Bush awards Paul Rusesabagina, who sheltered people at a hotel he managed during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award at the White House in Washington.   (AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson, File)

In the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda, Paul Rusesabagina was depicted as a hero who saved more than 1,200 lives during the 1994 Rwandan genocide at the hotel he managed in Kigali. George W. Bush even presented him with the US Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 for his humanitarian efforts. Now, a different narrative on Rusesabagina is being told by Rwandan authorities, who announced his arrest on terror charges Monday. "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 in a Monday statement, per ABC News. A tweet by the country's bureau of investigation notes the arrest was made with "international cooperation," though CNN notes it's not clear who exactly cooperated.

The bureau goes on to say that Rusesabagina "has been [the] subject of an International Arrest Warrant, wanted to answer charges of serious crime including terrorism, arson, kidnap and murder, perpetrated against unarmed, innocent Rwandan civilians on Rwandan territory." Rusesabagina is now in custody in Kigali, the nation's capital, though he hasn't been officially charged. The 66-year-old, known for being a vocal critic of President Paul Kagame, was the manager in 1994 of the Hotel des Mille Collines, where he sheltered people from the massacre by Hutu extremists that ultimately took the lives of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Ibuka, a Rwandan survivors group, has said Rusesabagina exaggerated his role in saving people. He fled Rwanda in 1996 after an assassination attempt and has lived in Belgium and the US. It's not clear where he was arrested. (More Rwanda stories.)

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