A former Burundi diplomat working for the UN and his wife went on trial Monday near Paris, accused of forcing a man to work in their home for 10 years in slave-like conditions.
Gabriel Mpozagara, a former top official at the United Nations' cultural agency UNESCO and ex-government minister in Burundi, faces several charges alongside his wife, including human trafficking and failing to declare an employee.
Methode Sindayigaya's lawyers say he was forced to work 19 hours a day, seven days a week in the couple's home in Ville d'Avray near Versailles, where he slept in squalid conditions in the basement.
They also claim he was promised around 50 euros ($55) a month for a job that was supposed to last three months, though he was paid only a fraction of that.
Mpozagara denies the accusations, saying the Burundian man was an au pair tasked in particular with helping his disabled son.
The alleged victim, now 39, also claims his passport was taken from him when he arrived in France in 2008.
"They stole my life," Sindayigaya told French daily Liberation in an interview.
He said the Mpozagaras would not let him tell his wife or two children -- aged one and three years old when he left Burundi -- any details of his situation during rare telephone calls home.
"They would always ask me, 'Dad, why don't you come home? Don't you love us anymore?'" Sindayigaya told Liberation.
He was freed by police in July 2018 after workers spotted him during a job at Mpozagara's home and told authorities.
Sindayigaya has since obtained asylum in France and his wife and children have joined him in the central Loir-et-Cher region.
Mpozagara's lawyer Dominique Naveau-Duschesne told AFP the former diplomat was "very saddened" by the accusation which he considered defamatory. "We will do everything to expose the truth," she said.
"He was a friend of the family, who was treated as one of the family".
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