Prosecutor says 'Hotel Rwanda' man to be tried with rebels

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Paul Rusesabagina, center, whose story inspired the film "Hotel Rwanda", wears a pink prison uniform as he appears for a bail hearing at a court in the capital Kigali, Rwanda Friday, Sept. 25, 2020. Rusesabagina admitted in court that he helped to form the National Liberation Front rebel group in order to assist Rwandan refugees, but denied that he supported any violence or killings. (AP Photo/Muhizi Olivier)

KIGALI – Rwanda's prosecution on Monday said it intends to hold a joint trial of Paul Rusesabagina, whose story inspired the film “Hotel Rwanda,” together with 16 prisoners alleged to be rebel fighters.

Rusesabagina, 66, is a founder of the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change, a coalition of opposition groups, which has an armed wing known as the National Liberation Front. The government accuses the rebel group of killing Rwandans in the country's north.

In court last month, Rusesabagina a dmitted his ties to the rebels but said the group was never meant to kill Rwandans.

Rwandan authorities said the rebel fighters to stand trial with Rusesabagina include two former spokesmen, now in detention in Kigali.

“Prosecution intends to submit a joint indictment of these 16 defendants together with Paul Rusesabagina. A full list of 16 fighters will be provided,” Prosecutor General Aimable Havugiyaremye told a press conference in the capital, Kigali.

Rusesabagina has been charged with 13 offenses that also include financing terrorism, complicity in murder, recruiting child soldiers, and forming a rebel group. He faces a maximum of 25 years in prison if he is convicted. He has been denied bail pending the trial, the date of which has not yet been set.

Rusesabagina’s family and supporters have described the upcoming trial as a sham, calling on the Rwandan leadership to first explain the circumstances under which Rusesabagina was brought to the country. His family says that he was pressured to say that he had ties with the rebels.

“Rusesabagina is a Belgian citizen who was kidnapped and brought to Rwanda illegally. Before anything else happens in his trial, he should be allowed to talk to his independent lawyers that have been hired for him, not the lawyers the government has enforced on him,” Rusesabagina’s daughter Carine Kanimba told The Associated Press on Monday.