The Rwandan Court of Appeal upheld a 25-year prison sentence against ailing “Hotel Rwanda” hero Paul Rusesabagina, who was convicted on terrorism charges last year, rejecting a prosecution appeal to increase the penalty to life in prison.
The outspoken critic of President Paul Kagame, who has been detained for nearly 600 days, was convicted last year after a trial that his family and supporters called a sham and riddled with irregularities.
“Because he is a first-time offender, the court finds that his sentence should not be increased, because the 25 years he was sentenced to is proportionate to the gravity of his crimes, and the court upholds his sentence,” said judge Francois Regis Rukundakuvuga.
The court also heard appeals on Monday from Rusesabagina’s 20 co-defendants, who were sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to twenty years.
In September 2021, all of the accused were found guilty of supporting an armed rebel group blamed for a series of deadly attacks in Rwanda in 2018 and 2019.
Rusesabagina, 67, has boycotted all court proceedings and was not present for Monday’s ruling.
He is credited with saving over 1,200 lives during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, which killed 800,000 people, mostly Tutsis but also moderate Hutus.
However, in the years since Hollywood made him an international celebrity, a more complex image of a staunch government critic whose tirades against Kagame led to him being treated as a traitor emerged.