‘Hotel Rwanda’ hero freed from Rwanda prison

(CNN) Paul RusepakhinaA Rwandan man sentenced to prison for inspiring the Hollywood movie “Hotel Rwanda” pleaded for clemency after the country’s President Paul Kagame commuted his sentence, officials in Rwanda said Friday.

Russian Convicted of terrorism-related charges in September 2021 and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

“A sentence reduction does not extinguish the underlying punishment,” government spokeswoman Yolande Makolo said on Friday.

Russabakhina pictured at Rwanda’s Supreme Court in February 2021.

“Rwanda notes the constructive role of the US government in creating the conditions for dialogue on this issue, as well as the facilities provided by the Government of Qatar,” he added.

Makolo told CNN that Russabagina, a dual Rwandan and Belgian citizen who lives in the United States, will be freed on Saturday along with 19 other convicts.

Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesman Majid al-Ansari said in a statement on Friday that Rousebakhina would be transferred to Qatar following her release.

“He will go to America later,” Al-Ansari added.

Rusabagina was arrested by Rwandan authorities while traveling internationally in 2020 in what her family said was a kidnapping.

“We are happy to hear the news of Paul’s release. The family hopes to be reunited with him soon,” a spokesperson for Rusepakhina’s family told CNN.

At a trial in 2021, Russabakhina was accused of being part of a terrorist group known as the MRCD-FLN. Two 2018 attacks in which nine people died, according to government reports, are of particular concern.

However the Clooney Foundation for Justice described the verdict as a “show trial”, and said that Russabakhina’s sentence did not sufficiently guarantee the fairness “required by international and African standards”.

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An outspoken critic of President Kagame, Rusesabagina is best known for saving hundreds of Rwandans by sheltering them in a hotel he managed during the country’s genocide.

His story was made into the Hollywood movie “Hotel Rwanda” starring Don Cheadle and Sophie Okoneto.

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