Daughter of 'Hotel Rwanda' hero alleges her phone was hacked

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Carine Kanimba, the youngest daughter of Paul Rusesabagina, whose story inspired the movie “Hotel Rwanda", testified that she discovered her phone had been hacked last year as she attempted to have her father freed. The Rwandan embassy denounced "politically motivated allegation".

Months after her father was lured back to Rwanda and jailed, Carine Kanimba discovered her own phone had been hacked using private spyware.

Kanimba is the youngest daughter of Paul Rusesabagina, who is credited with saving more than 1,200 lives during the 1994 Rwandan genocide in a story that inspired the movie “Hotel Rwanda.” An opponent of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Rusesabagina is now serving a 25-year prison sentence on charges that he has dismissed as politically motivated.

Researchers have alleged Pegasus was used to spy on Kanimba and her cousin as Rusesabagina's family was advocating for his release from Rwanda, which received $160 million in foreign aid from the United States in the last budget year.

Speaking during a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Commercial Cyber Surveillance, on Capitol Hill (Washington), on July 27, 2022, Kanimba and technology experts urged Congress to oppose the use of commercial spyware in the U.S. and discourage investment in spyware that has been used to hack the phones of dissidents, journalists, and even U.S. diplomats.

Kanimba testified that she was alerted last year by a collective of journalists working with Citizen Lab and Amnesty International that there was reason to believe that she had been spied on. A subsequent forensic analysis of her phone revealed that she had been targeted by Pegasus spyware, she said.

She said the surveillance was triggered as she walked with her mother into a meeting with Belgium's minister of foreign affairs – Rusesabagina holds Belgian citizenship and U.S. residency – and was active during calls with the State Department and with the office of the U.S. government’s special presidential envoy for hostage affairs.

"Politically motivated allegations"

Her family lives in San Antonio. Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro, a committee member who represents that city, noted that his office's communications may have been captured by Rwanda because he was advocating for Rusesabagina's release.

Rwanda denies using Pegasus. Its embassy in Washington said in a statement Thursday that its response "has not changed regardless of who raises them."

"These are politically motivated allegations aimed at undermining Rwanda's judicial system and sowing disinformation," the embassy statement said.

Rusesabagina was sentenced for terrorism offenses related to his alleged links to the armed wing of his opposition political platform. Rusesabagina has denied supporting violence and called the verdict a "sham."

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