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Prosecutors seek life sentence for dissident Rusesabagina

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Suspect does not deserve lenient sentence because he did not plead guilty to charges, says prosecution.

Rwandan prosecutors seek life for dissident Paul RusesabaginaPaul Rusesabagina leaves after attending his trial at the Kicukiro Court in Kigali, Rwanda, on September 17, 2020

Rusesabagina, 67, faces multiple charges including forming an illegal armed group, financing terror activities, murder, kidnap and arson.

In their plea at the Rwandan High Court Special Chamber for International and Cross-border Crimes in the capital Kigali, the prosecution requested a sentence for each of the nine charges, ranging from 10 years to life.

It said the suspect does not deserve a lenient sentence because he did not plead guilty to the charges.

The prosecution alleges that Rusesabagina was behind a series of attacks against innocent Rwandan civilians in Rwanda’s southern districts of Nyaruguru and Nyamagabe between 2018 and 2019.

Rusesabagina was arrested in August 2020.

He had earlier this year objected to his trial in Rwanda, telling a court then that he is a Belgian citizen being held “hostage” and questioned its competence to try him.

He would later refuse to appear before the court on claims that he did not expect a fair trial.

On Feb. 11, the European Parliament in a resolution called for the release of Rusesabagina and expressed doubt that he would receive a fair trial in Rwanda.

But in a counter resolution, Rwandan lawmakers described the European Parliament’s move as an attack on the country’s judicial system.

Rusesabagina, who was not in court Thursday, inspired the Hollywood film Hotel Rwanda, in which as a hotelier, he is depicted as having sheltered people during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

The 2004 film told the story of how Rusesabagina used his influence as manager of the Mille Collines Hotel in Kigali to bribe and convince military officials to secure a safe escape for about 1,200 people who had sought refuge in the hotel.

But the Umbrella Organization of Genocide Survivors’ Associations (Ibuka) said he had exaggerated his own role in helping hotel refugees escape the massacre.

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