Burkina Faso suspends trial on killing of ex-leader Sankara

January 31, 2022 GMT

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — The long-awaited trial on the killing of Thomas Sankara, Burkina Faso’s influential leftist leader killed more than three decades ago, has been suspended as a result of the West African country’s recent coup.

The trial has been paused until the constitution is reestablished, a lawyer for the prosecution said Monday.

The suspension comes one week after a military junta overthrew President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, suspended the constitution and dissolved the national assembly.

Prosper Farama, one of the lawyers for the Sankara family called the suspension a good thing that would respect everyone’s rights. “We have to be patient until the constitution is reestablished for things to be legal,” he said.

The president of the military tribunal said the trial would resume 24 hours after the constitution was established. On Monday, the junta released a seven-page document declaring junta leader, Lt. Col. Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba, as president and detailing laws for the country. The trial might resume within a few days, according to Farama, the Sankara family lawyer.

Lauded as a major step for justice in the country, the trial began in Oct. in a military court in the capital, Ouagadougou. Closing arguments were expected to begin last week before mutinous soldiers seized control of the country.

Fourteen people are being charged for Sankara’s killing, including former President Blaise Compaore, who ousted Sankara in a 1987 coup. Compaore is charged with complicity, undermining state security and concealing corpses, according to military documents seen by The Associated Press. He’s being tried in absentia, as he has been in exile in Ivory Coast since he was toppled in 2014.

Immediate reactions to the suspension of the Sankara trial were mixed with supporters of the junta saying the trial was politically motivated by former president Kabore.

“We want a Sankara trial without political manipulation, we want the truth, but for the moment we want peace,” said Mamadou Drabo, an activist leader of the Save Burkina Faso movement. Drabo led protests for months ahead of the coup demanding Kabore’s resignation over his inability to stem jihadi violence across the country.

However, those who thought they’d get justice for Sankara’s killing say they’re concerned.

“As young Sankarists, we are very worried about the suspension of the trial,” said Passamde Occean Sawadogo a singer and activist. “We remain vigilant so that nothing can jeoparidze the trial’,” he said.