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Ex-Burkina Faso leader found guilty of murdering his predecessor

A military court in Burkina Faso has recognized in absentia a former president, Blaise Compaoré, and sentenced him to life imprisonment on Wednesday for his role in the assassination of his predecessor in 1987.

Mr. Compaoré, who lives in exile in Côte d’Ivoire and refused to take part in the trial, was not present for the verdict – the culmination of a long-awaited attempt to bring justice for one of the political assassinations the most infamous in Africa.

His predecessor, Thomas Sankara, an incendiary Marxist revolutionary whose principled rule and contempt for the West won him adulation across Africa, was shot dead by soldiers in the capital, Ouagadougou, in October 1987 in part of the military coup that brought Mr. Compaoré, a long-time friend, to power.

Mr. Compaoré then ruled Burkina Faso with an iron fist until 2014, when popular protests forced him to flee to Côte d’Ivoire with the help of French soldiers. He suppressed all discussion of Mr. Sankara’s death for years, and he always denied any role in it.

The military tribunal had been held in a heavily guarded courthouse since October, hearing clear evidence against Mr. Compaore and 13 other men, mostly former soldiers and their commanders. Twelve other people were killed alongside Mr. Sankara, mostly aides who had met him when soldiers showed up outside their door.

Court proceedings were briefly delayed in late January after the military seized power in the landlocked West African country, the most recent of several military coups since the country’s independence from live in France in 1960.

The court also handed down life sentences to Hyacinthe Kafando, Mr. Compaoré’s former security chief, and General Gilbert Diendéré, the top army commander at the time of the assassination.

Like Mr. Compaoré, Mr. Kafando was not present for the verdict, having fled into hiding years ago. Mr Diendéré has been in prison since 2015 for his part in a failed coup after Mr Compaoré was ousted a year earlier.

Of the other defendants, eight were sentenced to between three and 20 years’ imprisonment by the court, and three were acquitted.


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