Ex-president sentenced to life over Sankara murder

Burkina Faso’s former President, Blaise Compaoré, has received a life sentence in absentia for his role in the assassination of his revolutionary predecessor, Thomas Sankara.

Sankara, 37, was gunned down along with 12 others during the 1987 coup d’état that brought Compaoré to power.

The pair had been close friends and had jointly seized power in 1983.

Sankara remains a hero for many across Africa because of his anti-imperialist stance and austere lifestyle.

Compaoré has lived in exile in Ivory Coast since he was removed from office following mass protests in 2014, and had taken up Ivorian nationality.

Thirteen others were also found guilty, including Compaoré’s security chief, Haycinthe Kafando, who was accused of leading the hit squad that killed Sankara.

He too was tried in absentia and received a life sentence.

They had both denied the charges. Mr Compaoré had previously denounced the trial as a political sham.

Gilbert Diendéré, one of the commanders of the army during the 1987 coup and the main defendant who was actually present at the trial, was also sentenced to life. He was already serving a 20-year sentence for a coup attempt in 2015.

This verdict puts an end to the six-month trial that began 34 years after the death of Sankara, whose assassination in a coup brought his ally, Compaoré, to power.

Eight other defendants received sentences ranging from three to 20 years, and three more defendants were acquitted.

The verdict was greeted by applause in the courtroom, the BBC’s Lalla Sy reported from West Africa.

The late president of Burkina Faso, Thomas Sankara – an icon for many young Africans in the 1980s – remains to some a heroic “African Che Guevara”, 27 years after his assassination at the age of 37.

Be it through the red beret, worn by firebrand South African politician, Julius Malema, or the household brooms being wielded at street demonstrations in Burkina Faso, there were signs that his legacy was enjoying a revival.

Praised by supporters for his integrity and selflessness, the military captain and anti-imperialist revolutionary led Burkina Faso for four years from 1983.

But he was seen by others as an autocrat who came to power through a coup and valued discipline above human rights. -BBC

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