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France orders first trial of Rwandan on genocide charge

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

A French court has for the first time ordered a Rwandan to face trial over the country's 1994 genocide, a judicial source told AFP on Tuesday.

Pascal Simbikangwa, a former Rwandan army captain arrested on the French island of Mayotte in 2008, is facing charges of complicity in genocide and complicity in crimes against humanity but can still appeal the decision in an attempt to avoid the trial.

It was not immediately clear if his lawyers would file an appeal.

Simbikangwa, a former intelligence officer under Rwanda's Hutu government, was arrested under an international arrest warrant for his alleged involvement in the genocide, which killed some 800,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis, over three months.

France in early 2010 set up a new unit to try cases of genocide and crimes against humanity involving suspects detained in France.

Two investigating magistrates from the unit ordered the trial on Friday following a request from prosecutors in early March.

France has repeatedly refused to extradite genocide suspects to Rwanda, fearing they would be denied a fair trial, but has sent some to Tanzania to face trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

Simbikangwa, born in 1959, is accused of being a member of the Akazu, an informal organisation of Hutu extremists believe to have planned and implemented the genocide.

A former member of Rwanda's presidential guard, Simbikangwa is accused of having armed the Interahamwe Hutu militia and encouraged them to massacre minority Tutsis. He is a paraplegic following a traffic accident in 1986.

Simbikangwa is facing trial in France following a complaint filed by the Collective of Civil Plaintiffs for Rwanda, known by its French acronym CPCR.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130402/france-orders-first-trial-rwandan-genocide-charge-1