Catholic nuns on trial for Rwanda genocide

Two Roman Catholic nuns went on trial in Brussels on Tuesday, accused of premeditated murder and crimes against humanity during 1994's mass killings in Rwanda.

Sister Gertrude and Sister Maria Kisito, who are Rwandan, are accused of helping Hutu militants slaughter more than 5,000 people who had sought refuge at their convent.

Over three months, extremist Hutus slaughtered 800,000 rival Tutsi tribe members and moderate Hutus in the former Belgian colony.

Security was tight as throngs of journalists crowded into the courtroom. The nuns, who wore their brown and white habits, watched the proceedings from behind a glass enclosure.

Two other defendants were in court as well. University professor Vincent Ntezimana and businessman Alphonse Higaniro, are charged with collaborating with the Hutus.

They are the first to be charged under a relatively new Belgian law that allows individuals, including non-Belgians, to be tried for war crimes committed elsewhere.

Several other members of the clergy have been tried for participating in the genocide. The Catholic Church has been accused of remaining silent during the killings.

All four suspects say they are innocent. If found guilty, they could face life in prison.

As many as 170 witnesses are expected to testify with 50 of them flying in from Rwanda.

The trial is expected to last until the end of May.