22 March 2018

Burkina Faso: Trial Resumes of 84 Coup Plot Suspects

They are accused of briefly overthrowing the transitional government of Michel Kafando.

The trial resumed in the Burkina Faso capital, Ouagadougou, on March 21, 2018 of 84 people - mostly military officers and soldiers - accused of involvement in an aborted coup in 2015. Prominent amongst the accused are Generals Gilbert Diendéré and Djibrill Bassolé, respectively ex-Commander of "Régiment de sécurité présidentielle, RSP presidential guards, and former Foreign Minister.

Some 14 people died while 250 others were wounded after Gen. Diendéré's troops briefly overthrew the transitional government of President Michel Kafando and Prime Minister Col. Isaac Zida. Hearing was adjourned on February 27, 2018 soon after the trial opened. Some counsel for the defence left the room after arguing that the court had no jurisdiction to hear the matter.

Security was understandably tight at the resumed hearing after pro-accused demonstrations were staged on the day of opening last month. Streets near the court house were closed to traffic, pedestrians and those entering the court scrupulously searched and electronic devices, including mobile phones banned in the court. It is not however clear how long the trial could last, though legal observers say it could take months, given the huge number of accused, charges spanning over 15,000 pages and the involvement of more than 300 civil claimants and 45 witnesses.

The suspects are variously charged with treason, attacks on State security, murder and inadvertently causing wounds. In addition, Gen. Diendéré is charged with assassination and illegally keeping corpses; while Gen. Bassolé is accused of treason based on a recorded telephone conversation he supposedly had with the Speaker of Côte d'Ivoire National Assembly, Guillaume Soro. The recording suggests Djibrill Bassolé's support for the failed coup.

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