The trial of the coup leader blamed for destabilizing Mali opened Wednesday in the town of Sikasso more than 300 kilometers south of Bamako.
Amadou Sanogo and 17 others are accused of kidnapping and murdering members of the presidential guard known as the red berets whose remains were later found in a mass grave.
21 corpses were discovered in December 2013 in a mass grave near Kati where the headquarters of Amadou Sanogo was based.
The Red berets, opposed his coup d’etat against Amani Toumani Toure in March 2012 and had in turn attempted a counter-coup in April of the same year.
Sanogo later handed over power to a civilian transitional government.
At the opening of his trial on Wednesday, Sanogo said he was in fine spirits had been waiting for ‘‘this day”.
If found guilty, Sanogo could face the death penalty.
Family members of the victims hailed the start of the trial as an important step.