Rusesabagina was arrested in August last year. He has been undergoing trial along with 20 co-accused terror suspects including Callixte Nsabimana alias Sankara, the former spokesperson for the terror group.
The suspects faced charges including the formation of an irregular armed group, membership of a terrorist group, financing terrorism, murder as an act of terrorism, arson as an act of terrorism, attempted murder as an act of terrorism, and assault and battery as an act of terrorism.
The crimes were committed since 2018 when the aforementioned terror group plotted attacks to Rwanda which claimed lives of nine innocent residents in the Southern Province.
They left many others gravely injured, and caused significant material and economic damage in South-West Rwanda.
Rusesabagina who has been undergoing trial for almost a year; was handed 25-year sentence on Monday 20th September 2021 by the High Court Chamber for International Crimes.
Rusesabagina was found guilty of charges against him except illegal formation of an armed group.
Following the verdict, countries including the United States of America (USA) and Belgium criticized Rwanda’s judicial system claiming that Rusesabagina’s trial was not fair.
The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium , Sophie Wilmes released a statement explaining that Belgium had raised concerns on his trial several times.
“Despite repeated proceedings from Belgium on this issue … Mr Rusesabagina did not benefit from a fair and impartial trial, especially with regard to the right to defense. The presumption of innocence was also not respected. These factors effectively question trials and judgments,” Wilmes said in a statement.
Wilmes further stated that she will meet with Rwandan counterparts this week as a bystander to the UN General Assembly in New York adding that ‘Belgium is in close contact with Mr. Rusesabagina’.
In response, the Government of Rwanda has said that the statement of Sophie Wilmès reflects ‘the contempt shown by the Government of the Kingdom of Belgium towards the Rwandan judicial system since the start of the trial, despite the significant contribution of relevant Belgian institutions to the investigation of this case’.
The statement further reads that the victims of the terrorist acts of FLN ‘have just as much right to justice as Mr. Rusesabagina and his co-defendants’.
For this reason, the Government of Rwanda announced that scheduled bilateral talks at ministerial level will not take place.
“A scheduled bilateral meeting at ministerial level, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, will no longer take place.”
Rwanda has however revealed that it remains ready to welcome to Rwanda of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Belgium, ‘at a convenient time to the dialogue between the two countries’.