Kigali – Rwanda announced on Wednesday that a verdict due this week in a terrorism trial against Paul Rusesabagina, the “Hotel Rwanda” hero turned government critic, has been delayed.
Rusesabagina, 67, had been due to learn his fate on Friday in a case that his supporters say is politically motivated.
Prosecutors have sought a life sentence for Rusesabagina, the former hotelier credited with saving hundreds of lives during the 1994 genocide, and whose bravery inspired the Hollywood film.
The Rwandan judiciary said on Twitter that the verdict against Rusesabagina and his co-accused will not be delivered as scheduled on Friday, but that a new date would be announced that day.
Rusesabagina, who used his celebrity following the 2004 film to denounce Rwandan President Paul Kagame as a dictator, was arrested in August 2020 when a plane he believed was bound for Burundi landed instead in Kigali.
Kagame’s government accuses Rusesabagina of supporting the National Liberation Front (FLN), a rebel group which is blamed for attacks inside Rwanda in 2018 and 2019 that killed nine people.
Rusesabagina has denied any involvement in the attacks, but was a founder of the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD), an opposition group of which the FLN is seen as the armed wing.
The hearings against him and 20 other defendants started in February.
But Rusesabagina, a Belgian citizen and US green card holder, has boycotted the trial since March, accusing the court of “unfairness and a lack of independence”.
The United States, the European parliament, and Belgium have raised concerns about his transfer to Rwanda and the fairness of his trial.
When prosecutors announced in June they were seeking a life term, they said Rusesabagina “encouraged and empowered the fighters to commit those terrorist acts”.
But his co-defendants gave conflicting testimony over the level of Rusesabagina’s involvement with the FLN and its fighters.
His family has campaigned globally for his release, saying Rusesabagina is a political prisoner, and accusing Rwandan authorities of torturing him in custody.