By Ivan R. Mugisha
Paul Rusesabagina, made famous by the Hollywood film “Hotel Rwanda”, was denied bail for a third and final time on Wednesday, and is now set to answer multiple charges related to terrorism, arson and kidnap when the trial begins in substance in Kigali.
A date for the trial is expected to be announced in the coming days.
The Nyarugenge Intermediate Court in Kigali, on Wednesday ruled against his appeal for bail and upheld a previous decision made on October 23, to extend his provisional detainment for an extra 30 days.
“Court finds no basis for Mr Rusesabagina’s appeal and orders an extension of his temporary detention,” said presiding judge Didace Nshimiyimana.
He did not appear in court for the ruling but followed the ruling online from Mageragera Prison.
Mr Rusesabagina is expected to defend himself alongside 18 other suspects charged with similar crimes, following a request for a joint trial by prosecutors.
Mr Rusesabagina was first denied bail in September on grounds that he is a flight risk. The 66-year-old is a critic of the Rwandan government and had been living in exile in Belgium and US since 1996, as the leader of an opposition group, MRCD, whose armed wing, the FLN, are blamed for various attacks against Rwanda in 2018 that left up to nine people dead.
Mr Rusesabagina gained international fame after the release of the Hollywood movie “Hotel Rwanda” in 2014 which depicts his heroic actions in protecting people inside the hotel that he managed during the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi.
Last week he pleaded with the court to release him on grounds that he was “illegally abducted” between August 27 and 31, blindfolded and cuffed, and detained in an undisclosed location.
Prosecutors countered this, noting that his arrest was based on a legal warrant, and that he was taken into detention at Remera Police Station in Kigali.
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His new lawyer, Gatera Gashabana, argued that Mr Rusesabagina was constantly denied his right to legal counsel.
“Neither the prosecution nor the Judiciary complied with the law. This has traumatised him because he was not given the right to choose lawyers with the help of his family,” Mr Gashabana said.
“These obstacles have persisted to this day whereby lawyers of his choice have not been given the right to speak to him yet the law allows.”
Lead prosecutor, Oscar Butera, objected to this, noting that Mr Rusesabagina “chose his previous lawyers” David Rugaza and Emelyne Nyembo, who defended him with his consent until they were recalled by the Rwanda Bar Association last month. The Bar association in November recalled both lawyers it had freely provided to Rusesabagina on grounds that he was no longer eligible for legal aid.
Mr Rusesabagina also failed to convince the court to release him on medical grounds after charging that he has “lost weight” due to bad health.
Last month, his lawyers filed a case at the East African Court of Justice in Arusha, Tanzania, requesting for his release on grounds that his arrest was a form of extraordinary rendition.
They argued in filings to the regional court that his arrest “demonstrated Rwanda’s prioritisation of silencing critics over compliance with international law and human rights.”
Mr Rusesabagina was on August 31 paraded by the police before the media in Rwanda in handcuffs, as a suspect on 13 charges related to terrorism, arson, kidnap and recruitment of child soldiers.