The man who inspired the film Hotel Rwanda and was freed by Rwanda last week from a terrorism sentence has returned to the United States, where he will reunite with his family after being held for more than two years.
Paul Rusesabagina’s arrival in the US was expected this week. White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told journalists on Monday that Mr Rusesabagina was in Doha, Qatar and would be making his way back to the US.
Mr Rusesabagina’s plane touched down in Houston on Wednesday afternoon and he will travel next to a military hospital in San Antonio, said a source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The 68-year-old Mr Rusesabagina, a US legal resident and Belgian citizen, was credited with sheltering more than 1,000 ethnic Tutsis at the hotel he managed during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide in which more than 800,000 Tutsis and Hutus who tried to protect them were killed. He received the US Presidential Medal of Freedom for his efforts.
Mr Rusesabagina disappeared in 2020 during a visit to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and appeared days later in Rwanda in handcuffs. His family alleged he was kidnapped and taken to Rwanda against his will to stand trial.
In 2021, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison after being convicted in Rwanda on eight charges including membership of a terrorist group, murder and abduction following the widely criticised trial.
Last week, Rwanda’s government commuted his sentence after diplomatic intervention on his behalf by the United States.
Mr Rusesabagina has asserted that his arrest was in response to his criticism of the long-time president, Paul Kagame, over alleged human rights abuses.
Mr Kagame’s government has repeatedly denied targeting dissenting voices with arrests and extrajudicial killings.
Mr Rusesabagina became a public critic of Mr Kagame and left Rwanda in 1996, first living in Belgium and then the US.