Burkina Faso’s former president Blaise Compaore will boycott a trial opening next week on the assassination of revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara, where he is the main accused, his lawyers said on Thursday.
“President Blaise Compaore will not be attending the political trial that is being staged against him at the military court of Ouagadougou, nor will we,” Compaore’s Burkinabe and French attorneys said.
In the trial opening on Monday, Compaore and 13 others face an array of charges in the 1987 death of Sankara, a charismatic Marxist-Leninist sometimes dubbed the African Che Guevara.
Sankara took power in the impoverished Sahel state in 1983, renaming the country the following year from the colonial-era Upper Volta to Burkina Faso, which means “land of the honest men.”
He carried out a string of radical policies, including nationalisations, public housing and a ban on female genital mutilation, polygamy and forced marriages.
But he was shot dead on October 15, 1987, aged just 37, during a putsch led by Compaore, a former friend.
Compaore was himself ousted in 2014 by a popular uprising after 27 years in power and fled to Ivory Coast, where he has obtained Ivorian nationality.
Many in Burkina Faso hope the trial will shed light on one of the bloodiest chapters in the country’s long history of volatility.
Compaore, 70, has always denied accusations that he ordered Sankara’s killing.
After his fall from power, an investigation into the assassination was opened in 2015 under a transitional government and a warrant for his arrest was issued the following year.
Those accused include Compaore’s former right-hand man — General Gilbert Diendere, a former head of the elite Presidential Security Regiment (RSP).
The pair face charges of complicity in murder, harming state security and complicity in the concealment of corpses.
Diendere, 61, is already serving a 20-year sentence in Burkina Faso for masterminding a plot in 2015 against the transitional government.
Another prominent figure among the accused is Hyacinthe Kafando, a former chief warrant officer in Compaore’s presidential guard, who is accused of leading the hit team. He is on the run.
Compaore’s lawyers, Pierre-Olivier Sur and Abdoul Ouedraogo, said the military tribunal was an “exceptional court” that lay outside common law.
They said their client had never received a summons to be questioned, nor had he received any formal accusation against him, except for the summons to attend the trial.
In addition, Compaore, has “immunity as a former head of state,” they claimed.
“Although president Blaise Compaore does not recognise the justice of President Roch Kabore (Burkina’s current president), he retains trust in international justice,” they added.
They noted a decision by the European Court of Human Rights to suspend the extradition from France of Compaore’s brother Francois, accused in the murder of a Burkinabe journalist in 1998.
The upcoming trial has been hailed by Sankara supporters and others who say that Burkina Faso has long suffered by failing to prosecute his assassins.
The Thomas Sankara International Memorial Committee (CIMTS) said the trial was “a victory” showing that “Burkina Faso, the land of honest men, is a state of law in which impunity is not a benchmark” of justice.
It said that Sankara’s widow Mariam, who has been living in the southern French town of Montpellier since 1990, was scheduled to attend the opening of the trial, “barring unexpected developments.”
Source: Modern Ghana