Sankara lawyers demand Burkina ex-president's extradition

"Africa must understand that friendships should not be put above the interests of peoples."
Sankara lawyers demand Burkina ex-president's extradition

Agency Report

Lawyers for the family of ex-Burkina Faso leader Thomas Sankara on Thursday demanded former president Blaise Compaore be extradited after he received a life term in absentia over the revolutionary icon's 1987 assassination.

A military court on Wednesday sentenced Compaore -- who seized power in a 1987 coup coinciding with Sankara's death and now lives in exile in Ivory Coast -- after a closely followed six-month trial.

The case had afflicted the impoverished and volatile West African state for 34 years.

Sankara's demise was taboo throughout the 27-year reign of Compaore, Sankara's comrade-in-arms, until he was forced out by a public uprising in 2014.

Lawyer Prosper Farama said extraditing Compaore was "a fight for the Burkinabe state, for the Burkinabe people."

"If we want justice to be done and for this justice to have a meaning, the state must use all means, while respecting the rights of those who have been sentenced, to implement this decision," he told a press conference.

The court in the capital Ouagadougou also issued life terms to Hyacinthe Kafando, an army officer suspected of having led the hit squad, and General Gilbert Diendere, an army commander at the time of the assassination.

Compaore, Kafando and Diendere were all found guilty of harming state security. Eight other defendants were sentenced to jail terms ranging from three to 20 years.

"It would not be fair for the other offenders that they are held here and the others are left alone where they are," Farama said.

A fiery Marxist-Leninist who blasted the West for neo-colonialism and hypocrisy, Sankara was shot dead on October 15, 1987, little more than four years after coming to power as an army captain aged just 33.

- Extradition hurdles -

Compaore, 71, took power and served as Burkina Faso's leader until popular protests in 2014 forced him into exile in neighbouring Ivory Coast.

A backer of Ivory Coast's President Alassane Ouattara, he technically cannot be extradited because he obtained Ivorian citizenship in 2016.

"It's the pretext that has been found to support impunity," said Benewende Sankara, another lawyer for civilian plaintiffs.

Farama accepted that Compaore's nationality "poses a problem" but noted that Kafando was not a naturalised Ivorian and thus could be extradited.

"If afterwards they are eligible for an amnesty or a pardon, let that be done in line with professional standards," he added.

The Ouagadougou court also renewed a 2016 arrest warrant for Compaore and Kafando on Wednesday.

Diendere is already serving a 20-year jail term for his involvement in an attempted coup in 2015.

Farama declared "the fate of a country, a continent" was in Ivory Coast's hands.

"Africa must understand that friendships should not be put above the interests of peoples."

Ouattara in February told the French media outlets RFI and France 24 that his country embraced a policy of "hospitality" and that proceedings related to the extradition would happen "in due course".

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