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This day has been expected in Burkina Faso for thirty-four years. After decades of legal battle, the trial for the assassination of former President Thomas Sankara and his twelve companions began on Monday, October 11 in the Burkinabe capital. ” At last… “, breathes Paul Sankara, one of the brothers of the Head of State assassinated on October 15, 1987 by a commando team during a meeting at the headquarters of the National Council of the Revolution (CNR), in Ouagadougou.
In addition to the family and Mariam Sankara, the widow of Thomas Sankara who traveled from Montpellier where she lives, several hundred journalists, civil society activists, admirers and curious people are present in the room. banquets in Ouaga 2000, where the military court was relocated.
Twelve defendants sit on the dock, including Gilbert Diendéré, 61, one of the main army leaders during the 1987 putsch, who is already serving a twenty-year prison sentence for an attempted coup. in 2015. All are accused of “Complicity in assassinations”, “Concealment of corpses” and “Attack on state security”.
Prosecuted for the same charges, Blaise Compaoré, 70, the former Burkinabe president exiled in Côte d’Ivoire and close friend of Thomas Sankara, was absent, as was Hyacinthe Kafando, the alleged commando leader. In a press release, published on October 7, Mr. Compaoré’s lawyers denounced a “Political trial”. The court gave them ” ten days “ to appear, otherwise the two defendants will be tried in absentia and will incur the maximum penalty.
Nearly 20,000 pages of dossier
9:10 a.m. “The hearing is open! “, proclaims Urbain Méda, the president of the military tribunal. In the room with wooded walls, lined with red carpet, the audience holds their breath. However, we will still have to wait. Barely started, the trial was postponed until October 25 to allow defense lawyers to consult the file. Several court officers explained that they had received the documents there ” less than a month “. Too short a deadline, they believe, to prepare the defense of their clients.
The dossier has nearly 20,000 pages, composed “Witness hearings, recordings, images and videos, expert reports”, as well as the three batches of documents declassified by France, reports a close source. More than sixty people were heard. “We had to listen to everyone, all those who could have information on the facts, before, during and after the assassination”, assures Ambroise Farama, the lawyer for the Sankara family since 2005.
On Monday, an important security device was deployed around the banquet hall in Ouagadougou, already hit by three jihadist attacks since 2016. For “Preserve the serenity of the debates” and the “Safety of the actors”, the military court also banned the sound and video recording of the hearings.
Before the announcement of the postponement, it took three hours and thirty minutes to designate, by drawing lots, the jury, composed of three military judges and two civilians. Several officers preferred to withdraw, citing their involvement in “Security operations on the territory” within the framework of the fight against terrorism or “Case of conscience”. “Diendéré, Kafando, they are friends”, thus defended a brigadier general, who was “Excused”. “We are all soldiers, brothers in arms here. (…) It is about appreciating facts and not people ”, tried to explain the prosecutor. “I have the impression that no one wants to sit in this trial! “, launched the president of the military tribunal, triggering laughter in the assembly.
In the room, exasperation was felt, impatience too. As with the failed 2015 putsch trial, which lasted more than a year, the debates ” on Form “ should slow down the procedure for the first few months. “We prepared for anything”, provides a lawyer for the civil party.
Seven years after the popular uprising of October 2014 which ousted Blaise Compaoré from power after twenty-seven years at the head of the country, it will be “To face our old ghosts”, believes Ismaël Diallo, witness and former close collaborator of Thomas Sankara.