By Spy Uganda Correspondent
Paul Rusesabagina, a prominent dissident who was portrayed in the Oscar-nominated movie Hotel Rwanda, is being denied food and medicine in a prison in Rwanda where he is being held on terrorism-related charges, according to his family, lawyers and foundation, even as the 66-year-old has complained of poor health.
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Mr. Rusesabagina told family members that prison officials informed him that they would cut his access to food, water and medicine starting this Saturday.
His family and lawyers believe the move by Rwandan authorities was an attempt to pressure him to return to his trial, which he stopped attending in March after saying he did not expect to receive justice. Mr. Rusesabagina, a former hotelier whose efforts to save more than 1,200 people during the country’s genocide were depicted in the 2004 film, later became a critic of the government of President Paul Kagame.
However, Rwanda Correctional Services tweeted later Saturday that it treated all inmates “equally” and that Mr. Rusesabagina had access to meals and a medical doctor.
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On Friday, his lawyers were scheduled to visit him but were denied entrance to the prison, his lead counsel, Kate Gibson, said. Calling the latest developments “disturbing,” Ms. Gibson said the legal team filed an “urgent submission” with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention seeking an inquiry into Mr. Rusesabagina’s situation.
Mr. Rusesabagina was arrested in August and charged with nine offences, including murder and forming an armed group accused of staging deadly attacks in Rwanda. A Belgian citizen and a permanent resident of the United States, he had travelled from his home in San Antonio, to join Constantin Niyomwungere, a pastor who he says invited him to speak to his churches in Burundi, Rwanda’s neighbour.
Mr. Rusesabagina didn’t know that Mr. Niyomwungere was working as an agent for Rwanda’s government and had been part of a plan to lure him to the country. After meeting in Dubai, the two boarded a private jet that Mr. Rusesabagina thought was going to Burundi – only to land Aug. 28 in Kigali, where he was summarily arrested.
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Rwandan authorities have said Mr. Rusesabagina was going to Burundi to meet with rebel groups based there and in the bordering Congo.
In the days before he was presented to the media on Aug. 31, Mr. Rusesabagina remained bound hand and foot, unable to properly breathe or use the bathroom, and held in a location he described as a “slaughterhouse” where he heard the screams of other detainees, according to an affidavit by one of his Rwandan lawyers, Jean-Félix Rudakemwa.
Murangira Thierry, a spokesman for the Rwanda Investigation Bureau, denied the allegations in the affidavit. The bureau, he said, “is a professional investigative body that respects human rights.”
Mr. Rusesabagina’s family and lawyers say his health has deteriorated since his arrest and that he has expressed fears of dying from a stroke.
“Of particular concern is the fact that the doctor the Rwandan government provided prescribed three bottles of water a day, and he is not receiving those,” Kitty Kurth, the spokeswoman for his foundation, said in a statement Friday.