Five suspected robbers face up to life in prison for taking part in a high-speed highway chase with police in which France's first female local police officer was killed in 2010, sparking a wave of indignation and a debate on the duties of the country's local police.

A total of eight defendants, aged 32 to 58, appeared in a Paris court Tuesday for the first day of a high-profile, seven-week trial in which more than 100 witnesses and dozens of plaintiffs and experts are expected to testify. Some 60 reporters attended the opening inside a large crowded courtroom.

In May 2010, then-President Nicolas Sarkozy attended the funeral of local police officer Aurelie Fouquet, 26, the mother of a baby boy.