A French court sentenced a former Rwandan spy chief to 25 years in prison over the 1994 genocide Friday, in a landmark ruling just weeks ahead of the massacre's 20th anniversary.
Pascal Simbikangwa, a 54-year-old former member of the Rwandan presidential guard, was found guilty of perpetrating genocide and of complicity in crimes against humanity.
Prosecutors in the trial -- the first of its kind in France -- have asked for life imprisonment for Simbikangwa, branding him an ethnic "cleanser" who was "radically committed" to his work and a "man capable of the worst".
The defence had requested he be acquitted, saying the trial was politically motivated.
The defendant himself, who denied all charges against him, took the stand one last time on Friday morning, calling on the court to recognise his "innocence".
The trial was being closely watched in France, which has long been accused of failing to rein in the Rwandan regime at the time of the genocide between April and July 1994 that left 800,000 dead.
Simbikangwa, who is in a wheelchair after a 1986 car accident left him paraplegic, was accused of inciting, organising and aiding massacres during the genocide, particularly by supplying arms and instructions to Hutu militia who were manning road blocks and killing Tutsi men, women and children.
He was arrested in 2008 on the French Indian Ocean island of Mayotte, after which Paris refused to extradite him to Rwanda and decided to try him under laws that allow French courts to consider cases of genocide.