By: Edmund Kagire,Jason Straziuso, The Associated Press
Posted: 27/10/2010 10:02 AM
KIGALI, Rwanda – The Rwandan hotel manager portrayed by Don Cheadle in the movie “Hotel Rwanda” could face charges by Rwandan authorities over allegations he sent money to opposition commanders, Rwanda’s top prosecutor said.
But the former manager, Paul Rusesabagina, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he hasn’t sent any money to Rwanda in years, and that the government is launching a smear campaign against him because he has opposed President Paul Kagame in the past.
Rwanda’s top prosecutor, Martin Ngoga, said Rusesabagina helped finance what he described as terrorist activities in Rwanda by helping fund commanders with the FDLR, or Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda. No formal charges have yet been filed.
Ngoga said he is asking U.S. officials for assistance in gathering evidence. Some of the financial transactions he alleges were criminal originated in San Antonio, Texas. Rusesabagina has a house in Texas but said he has never sent money to Burundi or Tanzania as is alleged by Ngoga.
“Those who want to continue considering him as a hero can go on,” Ngoga told a news conference late Tuesday. “We consider him a serious criminal suspect who has been financing FDLR and we are challenging whoever speaks on his behalf to tell us whether he never sent money to these FDLR commanders we have in custody.”
After his story was publicized in “Hotel Rwanda,” Rusesabagina was hailed as a hero around the world. Former U.S. President George W. Bush gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005, the highest civilian honour in the U.S.
However, the government of Rwanda did not view him as a hero after Rusesabagina began criticizing the regime of Kagame, who has since called Rusesabagina a “manufactured hero,” according to Terry George, the director of “Hotel Rwanda.”
Rusesabagina, 56, who was released from a hospital operation last week to find that his home in Brussels, Belgium had been broken into and documents stolen, says he has done nothing wrong.
“It is the latest step in a campaign against me by the Rwandan government that has included public insults, lies and physical harassment,” Rusesabagina said.
“My foundation is advocating for a truth, justice and reconciliation process to try to foster sustainable peace in Rwanda … but anyone who opposes Kagame inside or outside the country is treated with this kind of harassment.”