A man boarded a plane in Texas and landed in Dubai, never returning home.
In Dubai, the man was drugged. Hoping to travel to Burundi, to his surprise, he found himself in Kigali (the capital of Rwanda), where he was arrested and tried as a terrorist along with 20 others.
This might sound like the plot of a new action movie, but it is Paul Rusesabagina's current reality.
Popularized internationally by the 2004 star-studded movie "Hotel Rwanda," Rusesabagina — manager of the Hotel des Mille Collines in Kigali — reportedly saved more than 1,200 lives during the 1994 Rwandian genocide that killed 800,000 to 1,000,000 Tutsis and Hutus (the two main tribes of Rwanda).
He moved to Belgium in 1996 after a failed attempt on his life. In 2006, he and his family moved to the United States.
Aug. 26, 2020 changed Rusesabagina's life. He would never step foot on American soil again after takeoff from a Texas airport.
The former hotel manager was tried for the creation and development of the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD-FLN).
"Rusesabagina created the MRCD-FLN in 2016 with 'Colonel' Wilson Irategeka, commander of CNRD militia which had broken away from the FDLR [Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda], a DRC-based, internationally sanctioned rebel group," the embassy of the Republic of Rwanda in Washington told Newsmax.
Because of this, the Rwandan government issued an international arrest warrant.
Anaïse Kanimba, daughter of Rusesabagina, told Newsmax that a pastor, Bishop Constantin Niyomwungere, lured her father into taking the trip to Burundi with him, where he, Rusesabagina, would speak.
Kanimba's father accepted, but he later discovered Niyomwungere was in collusion with the Rwandan Investigation Bureau (that country's equivalent of the FBI).
The trial was based on nine charges against Rusesabagina, according to the embassy:
- Creation of an irregular armed group.
- Membership of a terrorist group.
- Financing terrorism.
- Murder as an act of terrorism.
- Armed robbery as an act of terrorism.
- Abduction as an act of terrorism.
- Arson as an act of terrorism.
- Attempted murder as an act of terrorism.
- Assault and battery as an act of terrorism.
Widely denounced in much of the world, the controversial trial ended with the 67-year-old defendant acquitted on the first count and convicted on the latter eight. He was subsequently sentenced to 25 years in prison.
The trial's credibility remains questionable to Rusesabagina supporters and human rights advocates.
Kanimba described how other convicts — people she insisted Rusesabagina never knew — testified at the same trial to create the false image that her father is a revolutionary mastermind.
She also argued that her father did not have access to any of the documents in the case.
The embassy claimed the hero of Hotel Rwanda was able to choose who represented him and appeal the ruling.
"Whoever says that trial was unfair must be precise on what they mean by that!" the embassy declared. "Because as principle, Rwanda is a country that upholds the rule of law.
"The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary and the government respects the judicial system."
His legal issues aside, Rusesabagina also faces major health battles.
Kanimba is fearful that her father, a cancer survivor, has not received his proper medication.
She told Newsmax, "He's receiving something that is not killing him because he's still here but not enough ... because he [had] a stroke."
Rusesabagina is not able to say anything about his health, according to Kanimba. The reason they found out he had a stroke was because the lawyers noticed differences in his lips and arm during their meeting.
"Rwanda Correctional Service serves all inmates equally and works to accommodate inmates with specialized needs," the embassy responded. "Rusesabagina has access to his medication and has rights, like all other inmates, to meet a medical doctor whenever required."
Whether he is receiving the proper treatment or not, Kanimba said: "You fight, you manage, and he's managing. His spirit is what is really driving him."
Carrying her father's spirit, Rusesabagina's daughter desires more actions be taken by lawmakers globally.
Many U.S. House and Senate members have voiced support for Rusesabagina's release. Kanimba argued that more support is needed by House Republicans (seven of the 49 co-sponsors on House Resolution 892 — calling on Rwanda to release Rusesabagina — are Republican).
With a widely anticipated African summit rumored to be in the works at the White House, attention is growing about whether Rwandan President Paul Kagame will shake hands with President Joe Biden amid the conflict.
The case is all hands on deck, as the State Department recently named the Rwandan defendant as a "wrongful detainee."
"The United States has been clear about our concerns related to Rusesabagina's trial and conviction," a State Department spokesperson told Newsmax, suggesting there is discussion going on through diplomatic "back channels."
"The U.S. government is engaging the government of Rwanda at high levels in Rwanda and the United States on this matter," according to the spokesman.
With the United States, and others, working to free Rusesabagina, Kanimba left us with words of hope: "The rain is going to pass. The sun will rise again. Remain calm."
Micah Hart, a Newsmax intern, is studying politics and journalism at Hillsdale College in Michigan.
© 2022 Newsmax. All rights reserved.