Paul Rusesabagina — Last week, Rwandan human rights activist Paul Rusesabagina was finally freed from prison in Kigali.
He made his return to the United States on Wednesday.
According to a State Department official, the man who inspired the Don Cheadle-led film Hotel Rwanda arrived at the US Army’s Brooke Army Medical Center at Joint Base San Antonio.
On Wednesday, an official released a statement confirming Paul Rusesabagina’s safe return.
“The US government is focused on ensuring that Mr. Rusesabagina and his family’s well-being are prioritized, and that all assistance available is offered in an appropriate and timely manner,” the official said.
The official also declined to give further details, citing privacy reasons out of respect for the family.
Carine Kanima, Rusesabagina’s daughter, also confirmed her father’s return online.
“PAUL RUSESABAGINA IS FREE,” she tweeted, sharing a photo of her father smiling in an airplane.
“Dad has just arrived in San Antonio, Texas.”
“Thank you to EVERYONE who worked soooo hard to bring home,” she added.
“Our Family is finally reunited today.”
Rusesabagina and his release
Last week, Paul Rusesabagina was released from the Rwanda prison after the country’s President Paul Kagame commuted his sentence.
On Friday, US senior officials told reporters that he had been transferred to Kigali, where he stayed at the residence of the Qatari ambassador.
“He will be spending a limited period of time hosted by the Qataris, likely a couple of days,” said one official.
They noted that he would travel to Doha before returning to the United States.
According to a US congressional aide aware of Rusesabagina’s case, he is expected to participate in the Department of Defense program PISA (Post-Isolation Support Activities).
Many freed US wrongful detainees have taken part in the program, which varies in length but holds a 19-day maximum.
The program is designed to help them return to everyday life.
Paul Rusesabagina’s release came after he asked President Kagame for a pardon through a letter written in October 2022.
“If I am granted a pardon and released, I understand fully that I will spend the remainder of my days in the United States in quiet reflection,” he wrote.
“I can assure you through this letter that I hold no personal or political ambitions otherwise.”
“I will leave questions regarding Rwandan politics behind me.”
Rusesabagina is a dual Rwandan and Belgian citizen, and he was slated to be released with 19 other people who were convicted with him.
When the news of his release emerged, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken released a statement saying:
“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.”
“We also thank the Government of Qatar for their valuable assistance that will enable Paul’s return to the United States.”
The arrest and sentence
Paul Rusesabagina was arrested by Rwandan authorities in 2020 while traveling internationally.
His family claimed the arrest was a kidnapping.
In September 2021, Rusesabagina was found guilty of terrorism-related charges and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
During the trial, he was allegedly part of a terror group called MRCD-FLN responsible for two attacks in 2018 that left people dead.
However, the Clooney Foundation for Justice described the verdict as a show trial.
The foundation claimed that the conviction lacked sufficient fairness guarantees required by African and international standards.
Previously, a senior US official said there was no concession to the US as a government that could lead to Paul Rusesabagina’s release.
Instead, a series of steps was worked out with Rusesabagina, the Rwandan government, and the US government.
It took months to reach an agreeable sequence for all involved parties.