Burkina Faso coup leader charged with ‘crime against humanity’: military

By 07:24 Fri, 16 Oct 2015 Comments

Gilbert Diendere

Burkina Faso’s military said Friday a general accused of leading a failed coup last month would be prosecuted on a slew of charges, including an unspecified “crime against humanity”.

“Eleven charges have been filed” against General Gilbert Diendere, “notably crime against humanity”, Colonel Sita Sangare, in charge of military justice, told a press conference.

The announcement comes as the interim government tries to turn a page on the short-lived putsch and uncover the truth about the death of the country’s charismatic former leader Thomas Sankara.

Diendere is accused of leading a power grab by presidential guards loyal to ousted head of state Blaise Compaore on September 17. The general, who headed the elite force, was Compaore right-hand man during much of his 27-year rule.

Burkina Faso was brought to the brink of chaos for six days before the coup collapsed when its leaders admitted they lacked popular support.

The presidential guard has since been disarmed and formally disbanded.

According to government figures, 14 people were killed and 251 injured in the unrest.

Sangare also said that they had not ruled out prosecuting Compaore in connection with the murder of his iconic predecessor Thomas Sankara in 1987.

“For now, former president Compaore is not being pursued (in the Sankara case), but it is not ruled out that it could happen,” he said.

Sankara, a revolutionary figure who is still a hero to many in west Africa, was killed in mysterious circumstances.

A lawyer for his family said on Tuesday that an autopsy showed his remains had been riddled with bullets.

“There were more than a dozen all over the body, even below the armpits,” Ambroise Farama said.

– Death mystery –

The fate of Sankara — dubbed Burkina’s “Che Guevara” — has been a thorny issue for decades.

Critics of Compaore accuse him of orchestrating the murder of his former comrade-in-arms and then covering up the deed.

Sankara’s death certificate stated the 37-year-old former army captain died of “natural causes”.

Several reports have since suggested he was executed by a hit squad at government headquarters on October 15, 1987 — an account that appeared to be supported by the results of the autopsy.

Sankara and 12 former aides were exhumed at a cemetery in Ouagadougou in May.

About a thousand people turned out in the capital on Thursday night to mark the anniversary of Sankara’s death, the first such commemoration in public since Compaore’s fall.

Compaore himself was ousted by a campaign of street protests last year after attempting to extend his near-three decades in power.

He was replaced by an interim government, led by Michel Kafando, which this week announced that presidential and parliamentary elections initially set for October 11, but delayed by the failed coup, would go ahead on November 29.

Amnesty International has demanded putschist troops be punished for violence against civilians.

“(They) displayed a cold-blooded disregard for human life, killing 14 unarmed protestors and bystanders and wounding hundreds more with automatic weapons,” the rights group said in a statement on Wednesday.

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