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NextImg:Biden celebrates 'Hotel Rwanda' hero Paul Rusesabagina's release from prison

President Joe Biden on Friday cheered the Rwandan government's announcement of their release of Paul Rusesabagina, the inspiration for the 2004 Hollywood movie Hotel Rwanda.

"I welcome today’s release of Paul Rusesabagina by the Government of Rwanda," Biden said in a statement. "Paul’s family is eager to welcome him back to the United States, and I share their joy at today’s good news."


The president added, "I thank the Rwandan Government for making this reunion possible, and I also thank the Government of Qatar for facilitating Paul’s release and return to the United States. I add my gratitude to those across the U.S. Government who have worked with the Government of Rwanda to achieve today’s happy outcome."

Rusesabagina will be released on Saturday after having been captured, tried by the Rwandan government, and held in captivity for two and half years.

FILE - Paul Rusesabagina, who inspired the film "Hotel Rwanda" and is credited with saving more than 1,000 people by sheltering them at the hotel he managed during the genocide, attends a court hearing in Kigali, Rwanda, Friday Feb. 26, 2021. Rwanda's government has commuted the sentence of Paul Rusesabagina was convicted of terrorism offenses years later in a widely criticized trial. Government spokeswoman Yolande Makolo told The Associated Press on Friday, March 24, 2023, that the 25-year sentence was commuted by presidential order after a request for clemency. (AP Photo/Muhizi Olivier, File)

The 68-year-old U.S. resident and Belgian citizen will be allowed to return to his family in the United States. He is expected to fly to Doha and then on to the United States on Saturday.

During a speaking trip in 2020, Rusesabagina traveled to Dubai and disappeared. Then he appeared in Rwanda days later after having been kidnapped, tortured, and put on trial by the government. The Rwandan government accused him of belonging to an armed opposition group and convicted him of eight terrorist-related charges, including murder, kidnapping, and belonging to a terrorist group. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison despite him pleading innocent to the charges.

Don Cheadle, star of the new film "Hotel Rwanda," arrives with girlfriend Bridgid Coulter at the premiere of the film at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, Calif., Thursday, Dec. 2, 2004. The film tells the true story of Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager in Rwanda who sheltered more than a thousand Tutsis from Hutu militias during the country's genocide in the mid-1990s. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

"Unbelievable news," Don Cheadle, the actor who portrayed Rusesabagina in Hotel Rwanda, said in response to the announcement of his release.

His release comes just weeks before the 29th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, which killed as many as 1 million people. The Oscar-nominated film about his story helped draw international condemnation and criticism of the country’s genocide.


Rusesabagina is credited for helping shelter and save the lives of 1,268 Tutsis at the hotel that he managed in Rwanda's capital of Kigali.

Rusesabagina left Rwanda in 1996, moving to Belgium and then later to the United States. He was awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush in 2005.