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Burkinabe prosecutors seek 30 years for Compaore in murder trial

Ex-president Blaise Compaore is accused of being the main sponsor behind the killing of his predecessor, Thomas Sankara.

Military prosecutors in Burkina Faso have requested 30 years in jail for former President Blaise Compaore over the 1987 murder of his predecessor, Thomas Sankara.

The court was asked on Monday to find him guilty in absentia of an “attack on state security”, “concealment of a corpse” and “complicity in a murder”.

At the request of the defence, which has yet to make a plea, the trial was then suspended until March 1.

Sankara was an army captain aged 33 when he came to power in the Sahel state in 1983, renaming the country the following year from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso, which means “land of the honest men”.

He enacted a string of sweeping economic and social policies, including nationalisations, public housing and a ban on female genital mutilation, polygamy and forced marriages.

A Marxist-Leninist, he railed against imperialism and colonialism, often angering Western leaders but gaining followers across the continent and beyond.

Sankara and 12 of his colleagues were gunned down by a hit squad on October 15, 1987, at a meeting of the ruling National Revolutionary Council.

Their assassination coincided with a coup that brought Sankara’s former comrade-in-arms, Compaore, to power. He ruled for 27 years before being deposed by a popular uprising in 2014 and fleeing to neighbouring Ivory Coast.

Fourteen accused

Fourteen people stand accused in the trial, 12 of them appearing in court. Compaore is accused of being the main sponsor behind the killing.

The prosecution requested 30 years in jail for the commander of Compaore’s guard, Hyacinth Kafando, who is suspected of having led the hit squad.

It also sought a 20-year sentence for Gilbert Diendere, one of the commanders of the army during the 1987 coup and the main defendant present at the trial. He is already serving a 20-year sentence over an attempted military coup in 2015.

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Five other defendants are facing sentences ranging from three to 20 years, while another faces an 11-year suspended sentence.

The court was asked for the acquittal of three of the accused over lack of evidence, and over the statute of limitations for the final two.

Days before the trial opened on October 11, lawyers for Compaore announced he would not be attending a “political trial” flawed by irregularities, and insisted he enjoyed immunity as a former head of state.

Burkina Faso has long been burdened by silence over the assassination – during Compaore’s long time in office, the subject was taboo – and many are angry that the killers have gone unpunished.

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