October 16, 2015 / 4:42 PM / in 2 years

Burkina Faso coup leader charged with crimes against humanity

OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - The leader of last month’s failed coup in Burkina Faso, General Gilbert Diendere, has been charged with crimes against humanity, a senior military justice official said on Friday.

Coup leader, General Gilbert Diendere arrives at the airport to greet Senegal's President Macky Sall and Benin's President Thomas Boni Yayi in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, September 18, 2015. REUTERS/Joe Penney

The elite presidential guard led by Diendere took the country’s president, prime minister and cabinet members hostage, soon before scheduled elections. Protests erupted against the revolt, and Diendere was forced to hand back power after a week.

“General Diendere is being prosecuted for crimes against humanity ... We have formally charged 23 people,” Colonel Sita Sangare, Burkina Faso’s director of military justice, said.

Judicial sources said last week he had been charged for lesser offences alongside former foreign and security minister Djibril Bassole, accused of supporting the coup. Bassole, also a former joint U.N.-African Union mediator in Sudan’s Darfur conflict, denies the accusations, his lawyer has said.

Charges against all the defendants ranged from threatening state security and murder to concealing the bodies of the dead and fraud, Sangare told journalists.

“The possible sentences could include the death penalty if it is established that murder was preceded by cruel treatment or followed by acts of cruelty,” Sangare added, without spelling out whether Diendere or Bassole might face execution.

At least 11 people were killed and 271 injured as the presidential guard crushed protests against the coup.

Diendere was facing a total of 11 charges, while Bassole was facing six, Sangare said.

The authorities are also seeking to prosecute Diendere’s wife Fatou, an influential member of Compaore’s political party, who is believed to have fled Burkina Faso, Sangare said.

Burkina Faso’s government on Wednesday set Nov. 29 as a new date for presidential and legislative elections.

The polls are meant to restore democratic rule a year after mass demonstrations forced Compaore from power as he sought to change the constitution to extend his 27-year rule. They were initially scheduled for Oct. 11.

Reporting by Nadoun Coulibaly and Mathieu Bonkoungou; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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