Rwandan official admits legal violations in ‘Hotel Rwanda’ case

NAIROBI, Kenya – Rwanda’s attorney general inadvertently revealed that he had intercepted privileged and confidential legal materials in the ongoing terrorism case against Paul Rusesabagina, the prominent dissident whose efforts to save more than 1,200 people during the country’s genocide were portrayed in the Oscar nominated film. “Hotel Rwanda”.

In a video interview published by Al Jazeera English, Johnston Busingye, who is minister of justice and attorney general, denied allegations that authorities had confiscated Mr. Rusesabagina’s papers or trampled on attorney-client privilege.

But in an hour and a half preparation video that his public relations team accidentally sent to the news outlet, Mr. Busingye contradicted himself, saying that the prison authorities had intercepted correspondence between Mr. Rusesabagina. and his lawyers and children, some of them. which included escape plans.

Mr. Busingye also discussed with the team how to respond to questions about whether the Rwandan government had paid for the flight that brought Mr. Rusesabagina to Kigali in August, where he was arrested on charges including murder, armed robbery and ser member of a terrorist organization.

The latest revelations came hours after a Rwandan court ruled Friday that it had jurisdiction to try Mr. Rusesabagina, a Belgian citizen and permanent resident of the United States. It also came as the trial faces widespread condemnation from entities including human rights groups, members of the United States Congress, and the European Parliament.

The latest revelations, his lawyers say, also cloud the prospects of Rusesabagina getting a fair hearing, as his international lawyers have been unable to enter Kigali to represent him and prison officials continue to confiscate his case files. Rusesabagina, a former hotelier, has told his lawyers that he fears dying of a stroke in prison, and his family members have said they remain concerned about his deteriorating health.

During the interview with Al Jazeera, Mr. Busingye denied that Mr. Rusesabagina’s communication with his lawyers had been intercepted. But “if that has happened, it will come up in court and the courts will deal with it fairly,” he told Al Jazeera interviewer Marc Lamont Hill on “UpFront.”

In another clip broadcast by Al Jazeera, Mr. Busingye is seen receiving advice on how to answer questions about who paid for the private jet that took Mr. Rusesabagina to Kigali. In the video, the public relations consultant can be heard warning the minister to be “cautious” because the interviewer was “looking for something that he can put out in a press release about the interview, looking for nuggets of difficult things.”

When Al Jazeera’s Hill asked him who had paid for the plane, Busingye said the Rwandan government had.

Since Mr. Rusesabagina was introduced to the press in handcuffs in Kigali on August 31, questions have been raised about how he ended up there.

He left his home in San Antonio, Texas, and arrived in Dubai on an Emirates flight from Chicago on the night of August 27. He then checked into the Ibis hotel in Dubai, according to a document from the United Arab Emirates mission in Geneva. , and five hours later he boarded a private jet that he believed was headed to Burundi, where he planned to speak to churches at the invitation of a local pastor.

The following day, the plane, operated by the Greece-based charter company GainJet, landed in Kigali, where it was arrested, tied up and interrogated.

The Rwandan authorities, including in interviews with The New York Times, previously confirmed that they had chartered the charter service for government operations, but never explicitly confirmed that they had booked the exact flight that took Mr. Rusesabagina to Kigali.

In December, Mr. Rusesabagina and his family sued GainJet for his role in the episode.

After his arrest, President Paul Kagame, whose government had been trying to detain 66-year-old Mr. Rusesabagina for years, called the operation “flawless” and said it was not a kidnapping.

As for Rusesabagina’s escape plans, his daughter Carine Kanimba said she had received WhatsApp and Twitter messages since November from a person claiming to be one of her father’s prison guards. The messages, both audio and written and reviewed by The Times, described Mr. Rusesabagina’s routine and suggested ways to help him escape.

“I never responded,” Kanimba said in a telephone interview. “My fear was that he would respond and that they would use him against my father.”

In December, the family also shared the material with the FBI, the US State Department and the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

On Friday, the Rwandan authorities doubled down on their position, calling the arrest “legal and proper.” In a statement, the Ministry of Justice said that Mr. Busingye he had learned of a “possible infraction” in December regarding the privileged documents, and that he had ordered that they be returned to Mr. Rusesabagina.

Kate Gibson, Mr. Rusesabagina’s lead attorney, refuted the statement, saying her papers “continue to be routinely and systematically confiscated, including her privileged and confidential materials.” Ms. Gibson is one of three attorneys awaiting permission to represent the former hotelier in Kigali.

Until last week, he said, Mr. Rusesabagina was refused to go to his cell with his documents.

“We now see in the Al Jazeera preparation video that the content of privileged and confidential legal documents is reaching the highest levels,” he said in an email. “The right to confidential communication is at the center of legal representation. Without it, it is impossible to consider fair procedures. “

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