Guinea's former strongman Moussa Dadis Camara denied responsibility when he took the stand Monday (Dec. 12) at a trial of former officials allegedly involved in a 2009 massacre.
Dressed in a garment of woven Burkina Faso cloth, Camara pleaded his innocence in front of a packed courtroom of several hundred people.
"If I’m here before you it’s because of my patriotism otherwise I would not have agreed to come," he told the attendancee.
Camara said he was sleeping during the early hours of the attack. Adding hew as eventually awoken at 11 a.m. when he was then told that demonstrators had been killed.
The former captain in his fifties is one of 11 men charged for the Sept. 28, 2009 stadium attack in which security forces fired at unarmed demonstrators protesting the junta leader's plans to run for president.
The bloodbath killed 156 people and at least 109 women were raped by pro-junta forces at the rally in Conakry.
Who's to take responsibility?
At the time, Camara had been in power for almost a year.
His deposition was a key moment, Proceedings in the trial were postponed until Monday from a week ago after Camara said he was too ill to give testimony.
He is charged with "personal criminal responsibility and command responsibility".
Human rights investigators interviewed witnesses and reported that Camara's aides were at the stadium and did nothing to stop the violence. Witnesses said that the presidential guard blocked the exits and then entered the stadium and opened fire.
As commander in chief at the time, rights groups say Camara has to take responsibility for what happened.
"They surely (acted) on this order. It is up to him to prove that he did not give the order and took the necessary measures to prevent the massacre," said Alseny Sall, communications officer for the Defense of Human Rights and Citizenship, a local rights group.
"Simply saying that he is innocent is not enough, it must be motivated by clear and precise explanations," he said.
Camara is the 9th accused to testify with two people remaining. The trial is expected to last at least until the end of the month.
Meanwhile, families of the victims say they believe justice will prevail.
"Eventually the truth will be known," Aissatou Sow prayed. The 34-year-old's fiancee was killed during the attack. "I did not want him to go to the stadium that day. I said it is dangerous and he told me not to be afraid," she said.