Rwandan genocide suspect Felicien Kabuga was arraigned before a French public prosecutor on Tuesday, standing trial on seven criminal counts.
The arraignment came three days after police swooped on his hideout in a Paris suburb, ending a 26-year manhunt.
The 84-year-old is accused of funding and arming militias that massacred about 800,000 people. He was indicted in 1997 on seven criminal counts including genocide, all in relation to the 1994 Rwanda genocide.
Kabuga arrived at the Paris Appeals Court complex under heavy police protection. Outriders flanked the convoy and armed officers guarded the entrance. The hearing began about three hours later, a judicial source said.
The prosecutor was to set out the legal process before the case is passed to investigative judges who will decide whether to transfer Kabuga to a U.N. court handling alleged crimes against humanity.
At least one French-based genocide victim support group said it was considering legal action to unearth how Kabuga was able to go underground in France and what help he had received.
“He was our Klaus Barbie, our (Adolf) Eichmann,” said Etienne Nsanzimana, president of support group Ibuka France, referring to two prominent Nazi war criminals.
“How did he stay on the run for 26 years? For how many years was he in France and receiving help to live comfortably? I don’t think it was just his family,” Nsanzimana added.
Reuters has not been able to find any public comment made by Kabuga over the years about the charges. French lawyer Emmanuel Altit, who will be defending Kabuga, did not respond to a request seeking comment from his client.
Some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in 100 days of killing from April 6, 1994, orchestrated by the Hutu-led government and its ethnic militia allies.
Kabuga, a Hutu businessman, is accused of bankrolling the militia.
It is not known when or how Kabuga, who had a five million dollars bounty on his head, entered France.
France’s justice ministry has said he lived under a false identity in Asnieres-sur-Seine on the outskirts of Paris. (Reuters/NAN)