'Hotel Rwanda' hero files $400 million lawsuit against Kigali

Paul Rusesabagina is serving a 25-year prison sentence after being found guilty of terrorism charges

Paul Rusesabagina has been in jail since his arrest in 2020. AP
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The family of Paul Rusesabagina, who was portrayed in the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda, announced on Saturday that they have filed a $400 million lawsuit in the US over his alleged abduction and torture.

Rusesabagina is serving a 25-year prison term on terrorism charges after a trial his supporters say was a sham and marred by irregularities.

He was credited with saving hundreds of lives during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda while working as a hotel manager in the capital Kigali, with his actions inspiring the Hollywood film.

"The complaint alleges that the government of Rwanda and high-ranking Rwandan officials conspired to facilitate and execute an elaborate plot to lure Paul Rusesabagina from his home in Texas to Rwanda, where he would be tortured and illegally detained for the remainder of his life," the family and his lawyers said.

A copy of the lawsuit seen by AFP shows it was filed in a Washington court on February 22. It was served on the Rwandan government on March 8.

Rusesabagina's family and lawyers will on Wednesday announce further details of the lawsuit, which is seeking at least $400m in compensation, as well as punitive damages.

It names the government of Rwanda, President Paul Kagame and other figures such as the former justice minister and intelligence chief.

After the release of Hotel Rwanda, Rusesabagina used his fame to denounce Mr Kagame.

He has been in jail since his arrest in August 2020, when a plane he believed was bound for Burundi landed instead in Kigali.

His family said Rusesabagina, who has a US green card and Belgian citizenship, was tricked into travelling from the US with the promise of work in Burundi.

"Instead, he was drugged and taken to Rwanda, where President Paul Kagame's security agents forcibly abducted him, tortured him, and forced him into illegal imprisonment," they said.

The government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Rusesabagina was convicted in September of involvement in a rebel group blamed for deadly gun, grenade and arson attacks in Rwanda in 2018 and 2019.

His 25-year jail term was upheld by Rwanda's Court of Appeal this month, a ruling his family say is effectively a death sentence for the ailing 67-year-old.

Updated: May 01, 2022, 1:24 AM