|Murwanashyaka is charged with commanding or endorsing atrocities such as the murder of more than 200 people [AFP]
Two alleged Rwandan rebel leaders accused of ordering massacres and mass rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo have gone on trial in Germany.
The alleged head of the Hutu guerrilla group, Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), Ignace Murwanashyaka, and the man accused of being his deputy, Straton Musoni, face 39 charges of war crimes and 26 of crimes against humanity committed in eastern Congo between 2008 and 2009.
Murwanashyaka is charged with commanding or endorsing atrocities such as the murder of more than 200 people, recruitment of child soldiers, arson, and looting while he was living in the southwest German city of Mannheim.
On the first day of the trial on Wednesday in Stuttgart, the defence demanded a dismissal of the proceedings, alleging bias on the part of state prosecutors - who rejected such charges, a court spokesman told Reuters news agency.
"This is a purely politically motivated trial," Ricarda Lang, Murwanashyaka's lawyer, told reporters.
"An acquittal is the only possible outcome after conclusion of this trial."
The two men were arrested in Germany in 2009 in response to UN pressure for international action against the leadership of FDLR.
If found guilty, they face life sentences which in Germany means at least 15 years in jail.
Congo's information minister Lambert Mende said his government would provide information if asked.
"We urge other countries giving refuge to FDLR leaders to follow Germany's example," he said.
Founded in 2000, the FDLR is mainly made up of Hutus from Rwanda who fled to Congo after the 1994 genocide in which 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed.
Widely accused of being led by those who carried out the genocide, the FDLR played a major role in a 1998-2003 conflict in eastern Congo in which more than five million people died.
According to the International Crisis Group, the FDLR had around 15,000 guerrillas in 2001 but its number has dwindled to about 3,500, according to UN experts.