• On Friday, Rwanda's government said human rights activist Paul Rusesabagina would be released from prison after the country's Pres. Paul Kagame commuted his sentence.[1]
  • Rusesabagina, a 68-year-old Belgian citizen and US resident, was allegedly kidnapped by Rwandan authorities in 2020. He was convicted on eight charges, including terrorism offenses, and sentenced to 25 years in 2021.[2]
  • The sentences of 19 others convicted with him on terrorism-related charges had also been commuted after requests for clemency. However, since their underlying convictions remain as "serious crimes were committed," their commutation may be "revoked" if crimes of similar crimes are committed.[3]
  • The US designated Rusesabagina as wrongly detained, partly because of the alleged lack of a "fair and equitable trial." Meanwhile, Rusesabagina — who received the US Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 — asserted that he was arrested for criticizing Kagame over human rights abuses.[4]
  • Rusesabagina, a former Rwandan hotel manager, is credited for risking his life to shelter hundreds in the Rwandan genocide.[5]
  • An outspoken critic of Kagame, he left Rwanda in 1996, first living in Belgium and then in the US. His life inspired the 2004 Hollywood film "Hotel Rwanda," for which actor Don Cheadle was nominated for an Oscar for his role as Rusesabagina.[6]


Narrative A

Why did a man who saved thousands of lives once end up in prison? Because Rusesabagina exaggerated his role in helping refugees escape the massacre, profited from the genocide, and had political aspirations. His admission at trial to having ties with a terrorist organization that sought a violent overthrow of the government is a testament to his crimes. Today, he walks out free because Rwandans forgive the unforgivable and don't get stuck with their past.

Narrative B

Rusesabagina was a dissident caught in the Rwandan ruler’s authoritarian net where Kagame exerts total control, plunders Congo openly, imprisons political rivals, and rules the country with an iron fist. He has increasingly transformed Rwanda into a dictatorship, brought the media and the judiciary under his rule, and suppressed the opposition. Rusesabagina was innocent, yet he was treated as an enemy of the state. His release is a victory for Kagame's opponents and other Rwanda heroes trapped outside the country.

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