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Rwanda Ex-Mayors Suspected of Genocide Crimes, Go on Trial

PARIS — Two former mayors from Rwanda went on trial in Paris on Tuesday for their suspected role in massacres of ethnic Tutsi in the early stages of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Tito Barahira and Barahira both are accused of taking an upper hand in 1994 Genocide crimes.

Tito Barahira, 64, the mayor of Kabarondo, a town nearly 50 miles east of the capital, Kigali, from 1977 to 1986, was a local Hutu party leader at the time of the genocide. Octavien Ngenzi, 58, was the town’s mayor when about 800,000 people, most of them Tutsi, were killed around the country in just 100 days from April to July 1994. Both men have been charged with genocide and crimes against humanity.

They are accused of orchestrating and taking part in the mass killing of Tutsi refugees and moderate Hutu who had sought shelter in a church in Kabarondo on April 13, 1994.

Mr. Barahira is accused of organizing and leading a meeting that planned the massacres.

In an interview with the France 24 news channel that was broadcast on Tuesday, Marie-Thérèse Mukamwezi, a survivor of the massacre in Kabarondo, said Mr. Ngenzi had rounded up Tutsi with his car and gathered them at the church, where militias and Rwandan government forces began an attack.

“After the attack, the killers came with machetes,” Ms. Mukamwezi said from Kabarondo. “They killed almost all of the survivors. Tito Barahira was there with a spear. He was supervising the killings.”

The two men, who deny involvement in the massacre, face life in prison if convicted. They are being tried in France because the United Nations has granted countries around the world jurisdiction over crimes related to the 1994 genocide when the perpetrators are arrested on their national territory.

Mr. Barahira was arrested in 2013 near the southwestern French city of Toulouse. Mr. Ngenzi was arrested in 2010 in Mayotte, a French territory in the Indian Ocean, where he had requested asylum using a fake identity.

Both men have been in French custody since their arrests. They were sentenced in absentia to life in prison by Rwandan people’s courts, known as gacaca courts, in 2009.

The court proceedings, scheduled to last nearly eight weeks, will be filmed for archival purposes, an unusual occurrence in France. The court session on Tuesday was largely procedural, with time devoted to jury selection and the presentation of witnesses. More than 100 are expected to testify, but their faces will not be filmed.

The trial is the second to be brought in France against former Rwandan officials suspected of having roles in the genocide. France had long been criticized for not doing enough to prevent the genocide, and for providing weapons and military training to the Hutu-led government, which carried out the killings.

In 2014, a French judge sentenced Pascal Simbikangwa, a former Rwandan intelligence officer, to 25 years in prison for complicity in the genocide and for crimes against humanity. Mr. Simbikangwa has appealed his sentence, and a new trial is expected to be held in October.

By Robert Muriisa.

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