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Former president Compaoré sentenced to life in Sankara trial

President Blaise Compaoré speaks to the media after a meeting with France's President Francois Hollande in Paris in 2012.   -  
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Francois Mori/AP -

Burkina Faso

Burkinabe prosecutors sought a 30-year sentence for Compaoré over Sankara's murder but a Ouagadougou court sentenced him to life in prison on Wednesday.

Former president Blaise Compaoré was sentenced to life in prison over Sankara murder on Wenesday. The verdict comes 6 months after the trial of 14 accused (including Compaoré) in the assassination of Burkina Faso's revered panafrican leader started.

In addition to Compaoré, two were sentenced to life in prison. Hyacinthe Kafando suspected of having led the commando that murdered Thomas Sankara was the commander of Compaoré's guard at the time of the events. General Gilbert Diendéré was one of the army leaders in the 1987 putsch.

Blaise Compaoré has been in exile in Ivory Coast since his fall whereas Hyacinth Kafando's whereabouts are unknown since 2016.

The three men were convicted of "attack on state security". Blaise Compaoré and Gilbert Diendéré were also found guilty of "complicity in murder" and Hyacinthe Kafando of "murder".

General Diendéré the only one still in Burkina Faso is already serving a 20-year prison sentence for his involvement in a 2015 coup attempt.

They have fifteen days to appeal these heavy sentences.

Long awaited verdict

Prosecutors had asked the military court to find Mr Compaoré guilty in absentia of an "attack on state security", "concealment of a corpse" and "complicity in a murder", accusing him of being the main sponsor behind the killing of Sankara and 12 of his colleagues.

The judges went beyond the requests of the military prosecutor's office, which had asked for 30 years in prison for Compaoré and Kafando and 20 years for Diendéré.

Eight other defendants were sentenced to between three and 20 years in prison. Three defendants were acquitted.

The verdict was greeted by applause in the courtroom. This historic trial opened in October 2021, 34 years after the death of Sankara, a pan-African icon, assassinated in a coup that brought Blaise Compaoré to power.

His lawyers had from the beginning denounced "a political trial" before "a court of exception", considering that the procedure "is worthless". Mr. Compaoré was suspected of being the mastermind of the assassination of his former comrade-in-arms and friend who came to power in a putsch in 1983, which he has always denied.

No "revenge"

Most of the 12 defendants present, including General Diendéré, pleaded not guilty and the lawyers for the Sankara family regretted that none of them had confessed or repented. "No one! We ask the court to give justice to the families. We don't want revenge, we just want justice," said one of them, Prosper Farama.

Thomas Sankara, who came to power in a coup in 1983, was killed along with twelve of his companions by a commando during a meeting at the headquarters of the National Council of the Revolution (CNR) in Ouagadougou. He was 37 years old.

The death of Thomas Sankara, who wanted to "decolonize conciousness" and disrupt the world order by standing up for the poor and oppressed, was a taboo subject during the 27-year rule of Mr. Compaoré, who was forced out after a popular uprising in 2014.

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