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Former Rwanda intel chief goes on trial in France, 20 years after genocide his country

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FILE - In this Aug. 25, 1994 file photo a young Tutsi refugee gazes upon the Tutsi camp of Nyarushishi, Rwanda, 6 miles southeast of Cyangugu. Two decades after the Rwandan genocide, France is finally opening what critics called its blind eye to justice over the killings. On Tuesday Feb. 4, 2014, a wheelchair-bound Rwandan former intelligence chief appears in Paris court for an expected seven-week trial to face charges of complicity in genocide and complicity in crimes against humanity. (AP Photo/Jean-March Bouju, File) (The Associated Press)

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.