KIGALI: A Rwandan appellate court has upheld the decision to deny bail to genocide film ‘hero’ Paul Rusesabagina, agreeing that he could flee the country.
The Nyarugenge Intermediate Court said Rusesabagina should be remanded on grounds that he is a flight risk.
The former hotelier, 67, will now remain in detention for 30 days pending his trial on 13 charges related to terrorism, financing terrorism, kidnap, arson and recruiting child soldiers. “Rusesabagina claims to be a Belgian and not a Rwandan citizen, which is reason enough to believe he is a flight risk,” Judge Adolphe Udahemuka said in a verdict reading that lasted about 30 minutes.
“His claim to get bail on the basis of needing medical attention is baseless since by his own admission, he has access to all the medical attention he needs while in detention. The court therefore finds all his reasons baseless. He will remain in custody until his trial begins.” The accused cannot appeal the decision since this is the highest court for appealing pre-trial detention.
Focus on trial
Last week, Mr. Rusesabagina admitted to being part of an opposition group that formed an armed rebel wing, which claimed a spate of attacks in Rwanda which left civilians dead.
He, however, denied responsibility for the attacks FLN conducted against Rwanda, noting that his personal work was to pursue diplomacy.
His lawyer Emmeline Nyambo said she disagrees with the ruling.
“We are certainly not happy with the ruling but unfortunately we can't appeal against it. We will continue pushing for his release but now we [have to] prepare for the substantive phase of the trial," she told journalists after the court session in Kigali on Friday.
On Thursday, Rusesabagina’s family and lawyers in the USA hosted a spirited press conference on social media platforms Facebook and Zoom, where they appealed for the US, Belgium, and the European Union to intervene and put pressure on the government of Rwanda to release the 67-year-old.
“We ask Belgium to protect its citizens and bring him home as quickly as possible," Rusesabagina's adopted daughter Carine Kanimba.
The family has also continued to insist that the two lawyers representing Rusesabagina - Emmeline Nyambo and David Rugaza - are forced on him by the government, even though he has said he chose them of his own free will.
Mystery continues to surround Rusesabagina's arrest after he was suddenly paraded before the media last month as a terror suspect.
He had not been in Rwanda for about two decades, mainly residing in Belgium as its citizen and the USA as a resident.
Rusesabagina has been vocally critical of President Paul Kagame and in a video that circulated on YouTube in 2018, he pledged his support for the FLN rebel group.
He shot to international fame when his heroic acts in saving over a thousand people against the Tutsi, during the 1994 genocide, were depicted in Hollywood movie ‘Hotel Rwanda’.