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April 20, 2014

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Rwanda genocide trial opens in Paris, French first

Updated Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014 | 1:14 a.m.

PARIS (AP) — The first trial in France over Rwanda's genocide has opened in a Paris court.

Pascal Simbikangwa, a 54-year-old former intelligence chief, faces charges of complicity in genocide and complicity in war crimes. He could face a life sentence if convicted after the seven-week trial.

The case has highlighted criticism of France's own reaction to the genocide a generation ago, and its slow exercise of justice after the slaughter of at least 500,000 people over 100 days.

France had close ties to the government of Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, an ethnic Hutu who was killed when his plane was shot down in 1994. His death set off a torrent of reprisal slayings of ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus, in what has been called the 20th century's fastest genocide.