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Hotel Rwanda 'hero' returns home to San Antonio

Paul Rusesabagina, portrayed as a hero in a Hollywood movie about Rwanda's 1994 genocide, is escorted in handcuffs into a courtroom, in Kigali, Rwanda October 20, 2020. REUTERS/Clement Uwiringiyimana
Clement Uwiringiyimana
/
Reuters
Paul Rusesabagina, portrayed as a hero in a Hollywood movie about Rwanda's 1994 genocide, is escorted in handcuffs into a courtroom, in Kigali, Rwanda October 20, 2020. REUTERS/Clement Uwiringiyimana

Paul Rusesabagina, who was credited with saving more than 1,000 people from a genocidal rampage in the 1990s, returned home to San Antonio on Wednesday after enduring a 900-day imprisonment in Rwanda.

Rusesabagina — whose life was dramatized in the movie Hotel Rwanda — flew in from Doha, Qatar. His family worked with the Biden administration and San Antonio Congressman Joaquin Castro, among other supporters, to secure his release.

"Our Family is finally reunited" tweeted Rusesabagina's daughter Carine Kanimba with a photo saying he had arrived back in San Antonio.

He was taken to the Brooke Army Medical Center for a medical checkup. It is a common destination for former inmates of foreign prisons. WNBA star Brittney Griner was taken there late last year after being freed from a Russian prison.

Rusesabagina was convicted on terrorism charges for his connections to groups opposed to the Rwandan government — including the National Liberation Front, which was connected to attacks on the country in 2018.

The trial that sentenced him to 25 years was widely criticized by international monitors. The Rwandan government said in a web post that the conviction is valid.

"It's what we’ve heard before, and I strongly disagree with it,” Castro said. “I have had classified briefings on exactly what happened, and the evidence that they purport to have, and it just doesn't add up.”

Rusesabagina, a winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, has long been a critic of the Rwandan government, and, according to the BBC, had called for regime change. This was the motivation for his being abducted by Rwandan officials, his family has maintained.

Over the last two and a half years, the family launched an international campaign to pressure the Rwandan government for his release. They tapped celebrities, U.S. government officials and filed lawsuits in the federal courts.

A family representative told TPR that Rusesabagina is eager to tell his story.

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Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive