Rwanda's defense minister appeared before one of his country's village courts Wednesday to deny charges he armed and assisted killers during the 1994 genocide.

General Marcel Gatsinzi is the highest-ranking suspect to appear before Rwanda's traditional gacaca court system.

General Gatsinzi, an ethnic Hutu, was commander of southern Rwanda at the time of the killings. He told judges at a hearing in a football stadium that he played no role in the slaughter of an estimated 800,000 minority Tutsis and their Hutu sympathizers.

But survivors testified that he used his position to support those who carried out the massacres.

The general later joined the Rwandan Patriotic Front, which defeated the former government, ended the slaughter, and took power.

Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.