Burkina Faso begins trial of former president’s assassins
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Burkina Faso begins trial of former president’s assassins

A military court in Burkina Faso Monday began the trial of 14 people, including prior president Blaise Compaore, accused of plotting the assassination of the country’s former president Thomas Sankara. The trial takes place 34 years after a hit squad gunned down Sankara is one of the most infamous killings in modern African history.

On October 15, 1987, after only four years in power, commando troops stormed the headquarters of Sankara’s National Revolutionary Council in the capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou, and shot Sankara dead. After his death, Sankara’s close friend, Compaore, took control of Burkina Faso. During his rule, Compaore repeatedly denied involvement in Sankara’s death.

Compaore stayed in power till 2014 when mass protests against his rule erupted in the country, and Compaore was forced to resign and flee to the Ivory Coast. Despite being the main defendant in the trial, Compaore will be tried in absentia. This is due to Ivory Coast’s refusal to extradite Compaore since Burkina Faso put a warrant out for his arrest six years ago.

The trial is expected to last several months and is seen as a significant step toward determining the circumstances surrounding Sankara’s death. “What the victims and I are expecting to gain in this trial is truth and justice, because so far there are contradictory versions about what really happened,” Prosper Farama, one of the lawyers for the victims, said.

The defense was granted a two-week postponement after proceedings were adjourned Monday due to their inability to process the high volume of documents. Proceedings will resume on October 25.