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France Begins First Rwandan Genocide Trial

  • VOA News

This court sketch in Paris shows Pascal Simbikangwa, a former Rwandan army captain charged with complicity in the genocide that left 800,000 dead, on the first day of his trial, the first of its kind, in France, Feb. 4, 2014.
A court in France has opened the country's first trial related to the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

A former Rwandan army officer, Pascal Simbikangwa, is accused of supplying weapons and instructions to Hutu radicals during attacks that killed an estimated 800,000 people.

The 54-year-old defendant, who is confined to a wheelchair, could face life in prison if convicted. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity.

The trial is being hailed by rights advocates who accuse France of not doing enough to halt the genocide or bring its perpetrators to justice.

France had close ties to the government of Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, whose death in a plane crash set off the massacres of ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Simbikangwa fled Rwanda after the genocide and was tracked down on the French island of Mayotte in 2008.

His lawyers have voiced fear he will not get a fair trial due to a lack of people to testify in his defense.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.

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