(CNN) Paul RusesabaginaRwanda officials said Friday that the country’s President Paul Kagame, who was inspired by the Hollywood movie “Hotel Rwanda” and sentenced to prison in Rwanda, has commuted the sentence after asking for a pardon.
Rusesabagina He was convicted of terrorism-related charges in September 2021 and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
“The commutation of the sentence does not override the original conviction,” government spokeswoman Yolande McCullough said on Friday.
She added, “Rwanda notes the constructive role of the US government in creating conditions for dialogue on this issue, as well as the facilities provided by the State of Qatar.”
McCullough told CNN that Rusesabagina, who is a dual Rwandan and Belgian citizen and resides in the United States, will be freed on Saturday, along with the 19 other people who were convicted with him.
A spokesman for the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Majid Al-Ansari, said in a statement on Friday that Rasbagina will be transferred to Qatar after his release.
“He will then go to the United States of America,” Ansari added.
Rwanda authorities arrested Rusesabagina while he was traveling internationally in 2020 in what his family alleged was a kidnapping.
A spokesperson for the Rusepagina family told CNN, “We are delighted to hear that Paul has been released. The family hopes to be reunited with him soon.”
At his trial in 2021, Rusesabagina was found guilty of being part of a terrorist group called MRCD-FLN. A government statement said two attacks in 2018 that killed nine people were a particular focus.
But the Clooney Foundation for Justice called the verdict a “sham trial” and claimed that Rusesabagina’s conviction lacked the adequate fairness guarantees “required by international and African standards”.
An outspoken critic of President Kagame, Rusesabagina was known for saving hundreds of Rwandans during the country’s genocide by sheltering them in the hotel he ran.
His story was made into the Hollywood movie Hotel Rwanda starring Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo.
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