Paul Rusesabagina’s son says his father is only guilty of “having the courage to speak out”

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Trésor Rusesabagina told CNN that his mother and sister spoke to his father last Thursday by phone as Paul Rusesabagina traveled to Dubai.

“This is the last time we spoke to him, it is the last time we have heard from him and since then it is only silence,” he said, adding that he did not didn’t know why her father was in Dubai.

CNN has contacted authorities in the United Arab Emirates, but received no response.

Paul Rusesabagina is currently being held in a police station in the Rwandan capital of Kigali, a spokesperson for the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) told CNN.

He became known for having saved hundreds of Rwandans during the country’s genocide by accommodating them in the hotel he ran. Its story was turned into the Hollywood movie Hotel Rwanda, starring Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo.

Trésor Rusesabagina said the accusations against his father were “clearly false” and called on US authorities to intervene. The elder Rusesabagina is an American resident, who lived in Texas with his family.

“It is a crime to have a thought in some places,” Tresor Rusesabagina said. “Being your own man is a crime in some places. ”

“My father is guilty of having the courage to speak out. It’s political, of course. These are the games they play, ”he said, referring to the government led by Kagame in Rwanda.

Terrorism-related offenses

The RIB announced on Monday that Paul Rusesabagina had been arrested in connection with terrorism-related offenses.

The 66-year-old is accused of being the “founder, leader and sponsor of violent, armed and extremist terrorist groups,” the agency said in a statement on Twitter.

Rusesabagina must answer “charges of serious crime,” Thierry Murangira, a spokesperson for the RIB, told CNN. Murangira, speaking from Kigali, declined to go into details on how and where Rusesabagina was apprehended. “This was done with international cooperation subject to an international arrest warrant,” he said.

Rusesabagina is still at the Remera police station, Murangira said. The investigation into his alleged crimes is ongoing and revolves around alleged crimes against civilians in two Rwandan districts in June and December 2018 respectively, he said.

Murangira explained that the investigator had 15 days to determine whether the suspect should remain in detention. This can be renewed up to a maximum of 90 days, in accordance with the law. “We can use less time” for the investigation, Murangira said.

Rusesabagina and his supporters have long argued that he became a target of Paul Kagame’s government after sustained criticism of the Kagame government and the behavior of the Rwandan Patriotic Front to end the genocide in 1994.

About 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in the genocide led by Hutu extremists.

He is the recipient of several human rights awards for his efforts during the genocide, including the US Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 and the Lantos Foundation Human Rights Award in 2011, among others.

Rusesabagina also holds Belgian nationality, according to a Belgian government source.

Opposition repression

Rusesabagina has not lived in Rwanda since 1996, when he survived an assassination attempt.

Although widely hailed for transforming Rwanda in the aftermath of the genocide, Rwandan President Paul Kagame has also faced widespread criticism for human rights violations and repression of the opposition.

Opposition politicians in Rwanda have often found themselves jailed on what they say are trumped up charges of defending Kagame in the polls.

In one of the most publicized cases, Diane Rwigara and her mother were jailed when the former tried to run for president in the same elections as Kagame in 2017.

Diane Rwigara was acquitted of all charges, including insurgency and document forgery in 2018.

Victoire Ingabire, leader of the FDU-Inkingi party, was jailed in 2010 on charges including collaboration with a terrorist organization, “divisionism”, “genocide minimization” and “genocide ideology”.

She had returned from the Netherlands to the country to run for the 2010 presidential election after years of living abroad, but was not allowed to run and served eight years of a 15-year sentence in prison before receiving a presidential pardon in 2018.

CNN’s Stephanie Halasz contributed to this report.

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