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Paul Rusesabagina of 'Hotel Rwanda' fame released from prison

Human rights activist Paul Rusesabagina has been released from a Rwandan prison after being held for more than two years, U.S. officials said Friday evening marking a diplomatic breakthrough for the Biden administration.

Rusesabagina, 68, has been moved to the Qatari embassy in Rwanda, accompanied by a U.S. embassy official. He is expected to leave in the coming days for Qatar, and will travel a few days later back to the United States to be with his family, according to a senior Biden administration official. 

The activist, who is a U.S. resident and Belgian citizen, is credited with saving the lives of more than 1,000 people during the Rwandan genocide, when the Tutsi ethnic minority was targeted by Hutu forces.

He gained international fame with the release of the 2004 film “Hotel Rwanda,” where he was portrayed by actor Don Cheadle.

Rusesabagina was arrested in 2020 and put on trial in Rwanda on terrorism charges, but critics argued that he had limited access to an independent legal team and questioned the circumstances surrounding his arrest, which came shortly after he had traveled to Dubai.

He has argued that he was arrested because of his vocal criticism of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, particularly over human rights issues.

U.S. officials on Friday said Rusesabagina’s release was the result of months of diplomatic efforts involving Secretary of State Antony Blinken, national security adviser Jake Sullivan and others.

Blinken met with Kagame in August during a visit to the Rwandan capital of Kigali. 

“I welcome today’s release of Paul Rusesabagina by the Government of Rwanda. It is a relief to know that Paul is rejoining his family, and the U.S. Government is grateful to the Rwandan Government for making this reunion possible,” Blinken wrote in a statement. “We also thank the Government of Qatar for their valuable assistance that will enable Paul’s return to the United States.”

“The United States believes in a Rwanda that is peaceful and prosperous. We reaffirm the principle of seeking political change in Rwanda and globally through peaceful means,” he continued. “There is simply no place for political violence.”

Asked about Rusesabagina’s leading to a reset of relations between Rwanda and the U.S., a senior administration official said the Biden administration has been open about its concerns with Rwanda’s treatment of political opponents and its activities in the Democratic Republican of the Congo, but added that it is an important player on the continent.

“A genuine partnership is where one can have honest disagreement about difficult issues but also find areas of common ground,” the official said on a call with reporters.

Source: The Hill

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