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The trial of one of the masterminds and financiers of the 1994 Rwandan genocide began Thursday in the Netherlands, more than 28 years after the conflict that killed around 800,000 in the African nation, Radio France Internationale reported.
Félicien Kabuga, one of the last remaining fugitives from justice, faces charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, including persecution, extermination and murder.
Kabuga had been on the run for years before he was arrested in France in May 2020.
The elderly, wheelchair-bound defendant refused to appear in person or via video link at the start of the proceedings at the United Nations tribunal in The Hague. He has also denied the allegations against him, calling them “lies.”
His lawyers previously argued that he was not fit to stand trial but the court ruled in June that the trial would take place: The court proceedings have been shortened to two hours per day, on the advice of Kabuga’s doctors.
Kabuga was one of Rwanda’s richest men and had close links with the ruling Hutu political elite and the country’s then-president, Juvénal Habyarimana. Kabuga’s daughter married Habyarimana’s son.
On April 6, 1994, Habyarimana’s plane was shot down and the Tutsi minority was blamed for the killing. With the backing of the army, police and militias, groups of Hutu extremists began executing Tutsis and their perceived supporters, the Associated Press noted.
Prosecutors say that Kabuga and other businessmen contributed to the killing by allegedly buying machetes and uniforms for the army and Hutu militias.
Kabuga is also accused of inciting genocide through his Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM). The station would broadcast calls to “kill Tutsi cockroaches” and in some cases provided the locations of Tutsis so they could be hunted down and killed.