Paul Rusesabagina, who became famous for his role in saving over 1,000 refugees during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda in the movie “Hotel Rwanda,” has been released from prison in Rwanda after serving a year of a 25-year sentence. U.S. officials were instrumental in securing his release.
Rusesabagina is a U.S. permanent resident. A U.S. embassy official accompanied him as he was moved from prison to the residence of Qatar’s ambassador in Kigali late on Friday. The 68-year-old was convicted in September 2021 for his ties to a group opposed to Rwandan President Paul Kagame. He denied the charges and called the trial a sham.
The Rwandan government announced earlier on Friday that it was commuting Rusesabagina’s sentence. Consequently, U.S. President Joe Biden issued a statement welcoming Rusesabagina’s release and thanking the governments of Rwanda and Qatar for making it possible.
Rusesabagina will remain in Rwanda for a couple of days before traveling to Doha and then the United States. The release followed a series of negotiations between the U.S. and Rwandan governments, and U.S. officials say no particular concessions were made.
Recently, Washington’s historically close ties with Rwanda have been strained by Rusesabagina’s case, as well as by U.S. allegations that Rwanda has sent troops into the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo and supports rebels there.
Rusesabagina’s release was welcomed by Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s spokesperson, who tweeted that it was “the result of a shared desire to reset the US-Rwanda relationship.” Nineteen others had sentences that were likewise commuted and are expected to be released.