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C.African war crimes suspect Mahamat Said pleads not guilty at ICC

Mahamat Said Abdel Kani enters the court room of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, Monday, Sept. 26, 2022.   -  
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Peter Dejong/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved -

Netherlands

The trial of alleged Central African Republic rebel commander, Mahamat Saïd Abdel Kani, opened Monday (September 26) at the International criminal court.

The 52-year-old faces seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the brutal 2013 persecution of residents in the capital Bangui, who were allegedly François Bozizé supporters.

Said was handed to the Hague-based court in January last year following an international arrest warrant issued in 2019. He's rejected the accusations.

"I plead not guilty to all charges and all situations", he told the judges.

According to Said’s arrest warrant, he instructed subordinates to mistreat alleged Bozizé supporters, subjecting them to torture to extract confessions.

Presenting pictures of the entrance to the Central Office for the Repression of Banditry (OCRB) and a map, the prosecution said Said was a Seleka leader and oversaw the police coumpound, instructing subordinates to mistreat alleged pro-Bozizé detainees.

"His voice determined the fates of so many individuals. He brought people to the OCRB. He did not protect them, but rather, he actively participated in their capture, hunting them down and subjecting them to the most dire conditions that he could conjure up", ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said.

The Central African Republic (CAR) spiraled into conflict in 2013 when François Bozizé was overthrown by a rebel coalition called the Seleka, dominated by Muslim members.

Following the coup, "anti-Balaka" forces, who were mainly Christian or animist and who backed Bozizé.

Two former anti-Balaka leaders, Patrice-Edouard Ngaissona and Alfred Yekatom, are also on trial at the ICC.

Thousands have lost their lives in the ongoing conflict despite intervention by former colonial ruler France and the United Nations.

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