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Prosecutors Say DRC's Bemba Used Rape As Weapon

The International Criminal Court has opened a hearing to decide whether former Congolese Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba should be tried for war crimes.

Prosecutors Monday accused Bemba of ordering his militia to systematically rape civilians in the Central African Republic. Bemba's force was invited there by President Ange-Felix Patasse in 2002 to help put down a coup attempt.

Defense lawyers argued that Bemba's fighters were under the command of the Patasse government, and that prosecutors have not shown that Bemba ordered atrocities.

Bemba faces a total of eight counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including rape, murder, pillaging and torture.

This week's hearing in the Netherlands is meant to determine whether there is enough evidence to put him on trial. The International Criminal Court says it will make its decision within 60 days.

Bemba was detained in Belgium in May after the ICC issued a warrant for his arrest.

Bemba fled to Europe in 2007, after clashes between his supporters and the guard of DRC President Joseph Kabila killed some 200 people.

Bemba had run against Mr. Kabila in the DRC's 2006 presidential election and lost.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.