CHICAGO – July 23rd – State leaders, human rights advocates, friends and family of Paul, and ordinary people alike are rallying in support of the #FreeRusesabagina movement. The beloved human rights advocate Paul Rusesabagina, whose bravery in saving 1200 people during the Rwandan Genocide inspired the movie Hotel Rwanda, was kidnapped in August 2020 and has now been in jail in Rwanda for more than 330 days. During his captivity, numerous organizations, including the American Bar Association and Clooney Foundation for Justice, have decried the conditions of his confinement and the dangerously corrupt “show trial” being conducted by the authoritarian Rwandan government. Now, his family and supporters are raising money for a legal defense fund with a goal of bringing Rusesabagina safely home to the U.S., where he has been a permanent resident since 2008 and where he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.
Rusesabagina has been held captive in a Kigali prison since August 2020, after being kidnapped during a trip to Dubai and taken unjustly across international borders to Rwanda. He has suffered from torture, including restraints, solitary confinement, and food deprivation, and the 67-year-old cancer patient has had his medications changed or outright withheld. The extensively corrupt conditions of this show trial, as well as surveillance on members of Paul’s family, have created the need for the family to crowdfund legal expenses to bring the hero home. Crowdfunding and foundation support have generated just over $60,000 (USD) in contributions so far, but the family says there’s a long way to go. Expenses to date are already well over $100,000 and may exceed $200,000 before the legal proceedings close.
Paul’s detention is one of the most prominent recent examples of authoritarian leaders going to extraordinary lengths to crack down on dissidents. Fighting these tactics is both emotionally and financially draining for the families of prisoners. LegalerAid, a 501(c)(3) legal crowdfunding organization, is hosting a fundraising campaign to help with Rusesabagina’s costs. To donate, please visit https://legaleraid.org/case/hotel-rwanda-hero-paul-rusesabagina/.
“Some people believe that Paul became rich from the movie Hotel Rwanda, but that simply isn’t true,” said the Spokesperson for Family. Rusesabagina was paid a small consulting fee for his work on the film, which tells the story of how he saved the lives of more than 1,200 refugees while working as a hotel manager during the Rwandan genocide. He received no part of the multi-million dollar profits from the film. And though his fame led to paid appearances and speaking engagements for a time, his career slowed dramatically when he began battling cancer and its associated enormous treatment costs in 2010.
His health is of particular concern to Rusesabagina’s family due to the withholding of his medication throughout his confinement. His daughters have stepped back from their own jobs, dedicating themselves full-time to the urgent fight for his release. They have repeatedly asked for the White House to intervene in the stunning, brazenly illegal saga of their father’s kidnapping and detention. However, Paul remains imprisoned to this day.
“We’re so grateful for the generous support of the many people who share our goal – to bring Paul home, safely and peaceably,” said Paul’s wife, Taciana Rusesabagina. “He has always fought for the vulnerable, for those without a voice. Now it’s our turn to fight for him.”