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Rwanda Ex-Cop In French Genocide Trial

FILE: Commemoration of 29th anniversary of the Genocide in Rwanda. Taken April 7, 2023

PARIS - A former Rwandan military policeman, Philippe Hategekimana, went on trial in France on Wednesday, charged with genocide and crimes against humanity during the 1994 slaughter in his home country.

The 66-year-old Hategekimana appeared in court on the first day of his trial on Wednesday morning.

My name is Philippe Manier," he told the judge, when asked to confirm his identity.

Philippe Hategekimana fled to France after the genocide, obtaining refugee status and then French nationality under the name Philippe Manier.

It is the fifth such trial in France of an alleged participant in the massacres, in which around 800,000 people, most of them ethnic Tutsis, were slaughtered over 100 days.

Hategekimana is accused of involvement in the murder of hundreds of Tutsis while working as a senior police official in the southern provincial capital of Nyanza.

He is suspected in particular of being involved in the murder of the mayor of the town of Ntyazo who opposed the killings, and of a nun.

He is also accused of playing a role in the killing of 300 Tutsis on a hill called Nyamugari, and in an attack on another hill called Nyabubare in which around 1,000 civilians were slaughtered.

Plaintiffs have accused Hategekimana of "using the powers and military force conferred to him through his rank in order to... take part in the genocide."

He has denied the charges. He faces life in jail if found guilty.

He fled France for Cameroon in late 2017 after the press reported that the Collective of Civil Parties for Rwanda (CPCR), one of the plaintiffs in the trial this week, had filed a complaint against him.

He was arrested in the capital Yaounde in 2018 and extradited to France.

His trial is scheduled to run until June 30.

France, one of the top destinations for fugitives from the massacres, has tried and convicted a former spy chief, two ex-mayors, a former hotel chauffeur and an ex-top official in similar trials since 2014.

But it has generally refused requests to extradite suspects to Rwanda, prompting President Paul Kagame to accuse Paris of denying Rwanda jurisdiction.

Relations between both countries have however warmed considerably since a historians' report commissioned by President Emmanuel Macron and released in 2021 recognized France's "overwhelming" responsibilities in failing to halt the massacres.

Another Rwandan, a doctor called Sosthene Munyemana who has been living in France since 1994, faces trial in Paris before the end of the year.