The controversial hero of ‘Hotel Rwanda’ movie’ Paul Rusesabagina on Friday appeared in Nyarugenge Intermediate Court where he was challenging a decision by Kicukiro Primary Court, last week, to put him on remand for 30 days, pending trial.The hearing kicked off with the 66-year old former hotel manager being given an opportunity to state the reasons for the appeal. The protagonist of the controversial movie ‘Hotel Rwanda’ told the court that he was not in good health.
His Lawyer David Rugaza, said that from the outset, the Kicukiro District Court had no jurisdiction to try his client because he had to be tried in his area of residence, which is where he bought a plot of land in Nyarutarama, Gasabo District.
Rugaza raised the two arguments, which were previously overruled by Kicukiro Primary Court, including claiming that Rwandan courts have no jurisdiction to try Rusesabagina, since he is not a Rwandan citizen.
Rusesabagina’s lawyers argue that the charges against their client are irrelevant, since Rusesabagina is not Rwandan and did not commit crimes on Rwandan soil. Rugaza said the Kicukiro court had not commented (even though it did) on whether it had jurisdiction to hear the charges against Rusesabagina or not.
“We urge this Court to confirm that the Kicukiro Primary Court did not have jurisdiction to hear the case, as it was based on illegal reasons,” he said. Rugaza said that from 1996 to date Rusesabagina is not Rwandan, and had not been in Rwanda from 1996 to August 2020.
He further claimed that pursuant to Article 11 of the 2012-2018 Code of Criminal Procedure, the convicted person must have committed the crime in Rwanda, adding that the law did not exist when the alleged crimes were committed in 2018.
Rusesabagina talking to his lawyer David Rugaza, the accused was given an opportunity to clarify his citizenship claims and he said that he moved to Belgium in 1996 and surrendered all his documents to the European country. He said that for three years he was stateless and was a United Nations orphan, until he was granted citizenship.
Regarding obtaining Belgian citizenship, Rusesabagina was asked if he denounced his Rwandan nationality or if it was revoked and his lawyer said that since Rwanda did not allow double nationality at the time, he immediately lost his Rwandan nationality when he got citizenship in another country.
The argument was previously dismissed by court, which said that there was proof that he was Rwandan by birth, as he attested when he was read his profile, while Prosecutors argued that even if he was a foreigner, he would be held accountable for crimes committed on Rwandan soil.
During the hearing on Friday, Rusesabagina also attempted to distance himself from the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD), whose armed wing, National Liberation Forces (NLF), is accused of waging war on the Rwandan government, saying that MRCD is a coalition of many parties and the NLF was an independent organization.
Previously in court Rusesabagina did not deny financing NLF but he pointed out that he didn’t know that their activities would result in the killing of innocent Rwandans. He claimed that what he said earlier was misconstrued to suggest that he admitted to the crimes, despite making the confession in court.
He claimed that Prosecution views MRCD as one party yet it is a coalition and he only headed one aspect of the forum, which was diplomacy.
He claimed that the other arms of the coalition were headed by other people, including Gen. Wilson Irategeka, who headed the military wing and Faustin Twagiramungu, who is the political spokesperson.
Last week, Rusesabagina admitted in court to have sent Irategeka, the leader of the FDLR breakaway faction -the National Council for the Democratic Renewal (CNRD), money amounting to $3,000 but said that it was just ‘support out of kindness’.
Rusesabagina told the court that NLF, which is accused of launching attacks on the south western part of Rwanda, killing at least 9 people, injuring score and looting properties, was an independent organisation, which he had nothing to do with, despite earlier indicating he knew the terror outfit.
During the hearing, Rusesabagina also tried to distance himself from the former NLF Spokesperson, ‘Maj’ Callixte ‘Sankara’ Nsabimana, who is also facing terrorism-related charged separately, stating that he was the one in charge of the activities of the armed group, not himself.
The defendant was asked to elucidate more on the matter in line with all the evidence presented by Prosecution, clearly indicating his full involvement and Rusesabagina said that Prosecution should corroborate what he said with the documents in its possession seized from his house in Belgium, regarding his role.
Asked about the audios and videos of him proclaiming war, he pointed out that their mission was to attract the attention of the Government of Rwanda to the plight of Rwandan refugees who were scattered in camps in different countries such as Zambia and Malawi.
“The intention of creating FNL was not to engage in terrorism. We wanted to draw the attention of the Government of Rwanda and the international community to the plight of refugees,” he said.