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Bangkok Post
Bangkok Post

'Hotel Rwanda' hero freed, thanks Kigali

In this file photo taken on Oct 2, 2020, "Hotel Rwanda" hero Paul Rusesabagina in the pink inmate's uniform arriving at Nyarugenge Court of Justice in Kigali, Rwanda, surrounded by guards of Rwanda Correctional Service (RCS). (Photo: AFP)

KIGALI: Paul Rusesabagina, the hero of "Hotel Rwanda" detained after criticising the government, was freed late Friday, the United States said, offering gratitude to Kigali.

Rusesabagina, a Belgian citizen and US permanent resident, arrived shortly before midnight at the residence of the Qatari ambassador in Kigali, a US official said.

He will likely stay "a couple of days" before flying to Qatar, which helped broker his release, and then to the United States, another US official said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued a statement welcoming the release, although US officials said there were no promises made to Kigali beyond public recognition of their move.

"It is a relief to know that Paul is rejoining his family, and the US government is grateful to the Rwandan government for making this reunion possible," Blinken said.

"We also thank the government of Qatar for their valuable assistance that will enable Paul's return to the United States."

Rusesabagina, who is credited with saving some 1,200 lives at a hotel he managed during the 1994 genocide, became a critic of President Paul Kagame and was sentenced to 25 years in prison on terrorism charges.

In a carefully worded statement, Blinken rejected political violence without backing Rwanda's accusations against Rusesabagina.

"The United States believes in a Rwanda that is peaceful and prosperous," Blinken said.

"We reaffirm the principle of seeking political change in Rwanda and globally through peaceful means. There is simply no place for political violence."

A US official said that the release did not change US concern about Rwanda's role in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Blinken has backed accusations that Kigali supports rebels.

In this file photo taken on June 18, 2019, Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD) MRCD-UBUMWE chairman Paul Rusesabagina speaks during a press conference of the political platform MRCD-UBUMWE and the political party RDI-EWANDA RWIZA, concerning the political and security situation in Rwanda, in Brussels. (Photo: AFP)
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