Family of Rwanda hero Paul Rusesabagina files $400 mn lawsuit in US

Family of Rwanda hero Paul Rusesabagina files $400 mn lawsuit in US

The family of Hotel Rwanda hero Paul Rusesabagina has filed a $400 million lawsuit in the US over his alleged abduction and torture.

Rusesabagina is serving a 25 year prison term on terrorism charges after a trial his supporters say was a sham and riddled with irregularities.

The family and his lawyers said on Saturday that Rwanda and high-ranking Rwandan officials conspired to lure Paul Rusesabagina from his home in Texas to Rwanda, where he would be tortured and illegally detained for the rest of his life.

A copy of the lawsuit seen by AFP shows that it was filed in a Washington DC court on February 22. It was served on 8 March in the Rwandan government.

Rusesabagina's family and lawyers will hold a press conference in Washington on Wednesday to announce further details of the suit, which is seeking $400 m in compensation as well as punitive damages.

The lawsuit names the government of Rwanda, its president, Paul Kagame, and other figures, including the former justice minister and intelligence chief.

Rusesabagina, then a Kigali hotel manager, is credited with saving hundreds of lives during the 1994 genocide and his actions inspired the Hollywood film Hotel Rwanda.

He used his fame to denounce Kagame as a dictator and has been in jail since his arrest in August 2020 when a plane he believed was bound for Burundi landed in Kigali instead.

The family statement said Rusesabagina, who has a US green card as well as Belgian citizenship, was tricked into travelling from his US home with the promise of work in Burundi.

Instead he was drugged and taken to Rwanda, where President Paul Kagame's security agents forcibly abducted him, tortured him, and forced him into illegal imprisonment. The government did not respond to a request for comment.

In September of this year, Rusesabagina was convicted of involvement in a rebel group that was blamed for deadly gun, grenade and arson attacks in Rwanda in 2018 and 2019.

His 25 year jail term was upheld by Rwanda's court of appeal earlier this month, a ruling his family says is effectively a death sentence for the ailing 67-year-old.