the Sankara trial resumes, defense lawyers plead for release

The trial of the alleged assassins of former Burkinabe President Thomas Sankara in 1987 resumed on Tuesday after several weeks of interruption, defense lawyers pleading for the release of their clients.

The trial had been suspended since March 3, at the request of defense lawyers who questioned the constitutionality of the charge of “attack on state security”.

On Friday, the Constitutional Council had rejected this request and the trial resumed on Tuesday with the defense pleadings.

They began with that of Me Issiaka Ouattara, lawyer for military doctor Alidou Diebré, prosecuted for “false public writing” for having established Thomas Sankara’s death certificate with the mention “natural death”.

Evoking a prescription of the facts alleged against his client, the lawyer pleaded for release because, he said, “Mr. Diebré had no guilty intention”.

Then, Me Kopiho Moumouny, lawyer for Kafando Hamadou, also prosecuted for “false public writing”, for having produced another death certificate with the mention “accidental death”, also mentioned the statute of limitations and pleaded for release.

Me Mamadou Coulibaly, lawyer for a third defendant, Albert Belemliga, prosecuted for “complicity in an attack on state security”, in turn demanded the acquittal of his client.

Me Coulibaly argued that “no witness has implicated” his client, whose release is also requested by the military prosecutor.

Fourteen defendants are on trial in the trial of the assassins of Thomas Sankara and his companions in a 1987 coup.

The two main ones, former President Blaise Compaoré who came to power during the putsch before being driven out by the streets in 2014, and Hyacinthe Kafando, commander of his guard during the coup, are absent.

The military prosecutor’s office requested in early February thirty years in prison against them for “attack on state security”, “concealment of a corpse” and “complicity in assassination”.

Twenty years in prison were required against General Gilbert Diendéré, one of the leaders of the army during the putsch of 1987 and the main defendant present.

He is already serving a 20-year sentence for an attempted coup in 2015.

Started at the end of October, the hearings of this historic trial have been suspended several times, notably at the time of the January 24 coup during which Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba overthrew elected President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré.

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