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Burkina Faso soldiers tried for "conspiracy" say they were tortured

Burkina Faso

Some 20 Burkinabe soldiers tried for “military conspiracy” on Saturday before the military tribunal in Ouagadougou complain of “inhuman treatment” and “torture” to get confessions from them.

Almost all of the soldiers said they had suffered “beating, shackling, humiliation, insults and food deprivation” at the gendarmerie camp after their arrest, following the attack of a weapons depot in January 2016 for which they are undergoing trial.

“When I was arrested on January 25, 2016, I was beaten by gendarmerie officers from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm. I was beaten with a wet rope, threatened with a gun, handcuffed and suspended by a table to compel me to speak, “said Sergeant Ollo Stanislas Poda.

Like him, most of the soldiers under prosecution for “military conspiracy” complained of “physical abuse” and “inhuman treatment”.

“If you arrest someone like my client on January 21, 2016, and finally on March 16, 52 days later, you present him to an investigating judge while he is still under detention, we will ask about what has been done to him during the time,” said Issouf Kabré, lawyer for soldier Kam Ollo Bienvenu.

The defense called for “shedding light on practices” during the investigation.

These soldiers, including a dozen members of the former Presidential Security Regiment (RSP), the former Praetorian Guard of the deposed President Blaise Compaoré are also accused of “seizing military equipment by breaking in”.

According to the docket, the weapons were to be used to attack the military prison of Ouagadougou to release General Gilbert Diendéré, the former head of the RSP, as well as other soldiers incarcerated for their alleged involvement in the failed coup in September 2015.

The RSP, the elite unit of the Burkinabe army, was the praetorian guard of President Blaise Compaoré, who was ousted at the end of October 2014 after 27 years in power.

The RSP was dissolved on September 17, 2015 for attempting a coup under the leadership of General Diendéré, against the transitional government set up after the fall of Compaore.

In mid-January, 19 members of the RSP, who had planned to release colleagues imprisoned after the failed coup, were sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.

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