Humanitarian Paul Rusesabagina appeared before the Nyarugenge High Court on Friday, November 27 to appeal the decision to extend his detention, which was taken by the Kicukiro Local Court on October 23. For the first time since he disappeared from Dubai 92 days ago, Rusesabagina, real life humanitarian portrayed in the movie Hotel Rwanda, was represented by a lawyer of his choice, Gatera Gashabana.
Gashabana was finally able to raise several issues in court which the lawyers previously representing Rusesabagina, who had been appointed by the Rwandan government, had failed to bring up at Rusesabagina’s previous hearings. The Government appointed lawyers failed at each previous hearing to represent Rusesabagina’s best interests which is further proof that he is not receiving a fair trial nor will he ever.
First and foremost among these issues is the fact that Paul Rusesabagina was kidnapped and arrested illegally. He did not willingly go to Kigali, Rwanda.
Rusesabagina said, “I was kidnapped to come here. They tied my legs and my arms and I was blindfolded.”
There was discussion of a summons calling for Rusesabagina to present himself for arrest, but this was not delivered since Rusesabagina was abducted and held in an unknown location from August 27 and 31. That should have been sufficient evidence for the first judge to release Rusesabagina, but that did not happen.
There were no lawyers present at the initial interrogations when Rusesabagina was being tortured. His confession was obtained by torture and Rusesabagina’s rights were not respected during his arrest and detention. He stated in court that his hands and feet were bound, and he was blindfolded, for the first three days of his capture. This should also be grounds for Rusesabagina’s release.
Gashabana also talked about Rusesabagina’s health. Rusesabagina suffers from high blood pressure and is a cancer survivor. Gashabana asserted that Rusesabagina’s condition should be monitored by independent doctors. Rusesabagina’s ongoing health issues should also be grounds for his release.
Gashabana also stated that Rusesabagina should be released and monitored outside the prison, especially since the prison also had a Covid-19 problem, making it impossible for client visits.
Rusesabagina reiterated that he is a Belgian citizen, not a Rwandan citizen. When Rusesabagina left Rwanda as a refugee he renounced his Rwandan citizenship in order to become a Belgian citizen. He became a stateless person and was accepted by the Belgians who granted him citizenship in 1998. At the time Rusesabagina became a Belgian citizen, neither Belgium nor Rwanda allowed dual citizenship. Therefore, both countries must admit that by their own laws and procedures, Rusesabagina is not a Rwandan citizen.
Gashabana and Rusesabagina explained again that Rusesabagina was in Rwanda illegally because he was a Belgian. Rwanda did not follow any international procedures to extradite someone for arrest. He was kidnapped and brought to Rwanda, held and tortured before his official arrest. He did not go of his own free will and he had not received a letter calling him to Rwanda. Rusesabagina did not have a visa for Rwanda. Rusesabagina was not given access to any lawyer, even the government imposed lawyers, until September 6. Gashabana repeatedly tried to have access to him beginning September 2 and was repeatedly denied by the Rwandan government.
The prosecutor admitted that Rusesabagina “was brought to Rwanda, where he was immediately arrested and charged with felony criminal mischief,” but he did not say how Rusesabagina was brought to Rwanda nor by whom.
According to media reports and publicly available information about flights between Dubai and Rwanda, Rusesabagina was brought to Rwanda on a GainJet aircraft. Neither GainJet nor the Rwandan government have answered the obvious questions of who chartered that plane, who was on that plane, how Rusesabagina was taken on and off that plane and who paid for that plane.
The judge ruled that the court’s decision would be read on December 2, 2020.
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