KIGALI (Reuters) – A Rwandan prosecutor on Monday sought a life sentence for Paul Rusesabagina, who was portrayed in the film “Hotel Rwanda” sheltering hundreds of people during the 1994 genocide, instead of a sentence 25 years old.

Rusesabagina, 67, was convicted in September of eight terrorism charges related to the activities of an organization opposed to President Paul Kagame’s regime and is being held in a Rwandan prison.

He denied all charges and refused to participate in the trial, which he and his supporters denounced as a politically motivated sham. He was not present in court in Kigali on Monday to hear the prosecution begin its appeal against his conviction, choosing to remain in prison.

“We do not agree with the decision to impose a 25-year sentence on Rusesabagina instead of life imprisonment,” prosecutor Jean Pierre Habarurema told the court.

“Given the significance of the charges of which Rusesabagina was convicted and the impact of these crimes on people and their property, he should not be given a lenient sentence. He should be sentenced to life imprisonment. “, did he declare.

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Rusesabagina admitted playing a leading role in the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD), but denied any responsibility for the attacks carried out by its armed wing, the National Liberation Front (FLN). Trial judges said the two groups were indistinguishable.

In the 2004 film, Rusesabagina was depicted risking his life to shelter hundreds of people in the hotel he ran in the Rwandan capital during the 100 Day Genocide, when Hutu extremists killed more than 800,000 Tutsis and Hutus moderate.

The Hollywood film gave Rusesabagina great international exposure, which he later used to highlight what he described as abuses by Kagame’s government.

Kagame, in power since 1994, denies the charges and has benefited from the support of Western donors to restore stability and boost economic growth. However, human rights groups describe the Rusesabagina case as part of a pattern of intimidation of opponents.

(Reporting by Clement Uwiringiyimana; Writing by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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