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Man Claiming to Be Imperial Cook Says Emperor Eagerly Ate Human Flesh

March 3, 1987 GMT

BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) _ Deposed Emperor Jean Bedel Bokassa eagerly devoured meals of human flesh, a man claiming to be the former imperial cook testified Tuesday.

″My boss well and truly did eat that meal in my presence and he truly liked it,″ Phillipe Linguissa said at the ex-ruler’s trial on charges including murder, embezzlement and procuring bodies for cannibalism.

″I cannot tell a lie,″ Linguissa said. ″Bokassa devoured the meal. In France, Bokassa could no longer eat human flesh and that is the reason he returned to Bangui so he could do it again.″

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Bokassa claimed he had never seen Linguissa until the man appeared in court. He said his political enemies were using the witness to say anything against him.

Linguissa said the experience had left him paralyzed and impotent.

″Mister president (of the court), if I am lying, I am prepared for the court to kill me,″ he said.

Bokassa has repeatedly accused France, which helped overthrow him in 1979, of concocting stories that he committed atrocities ranging from cannibalism to the murder of students.

Witnesses testified earlier that shortly after Bokassa’s overthrow, mutilated bodies were found in freezers at Bokassa’s villa in Bangui. His opponents have accused him of eating his political enemies.

Bokassa, who ruled for 13 years, returned from exile in Paris last year and said he wanted to clear his name.

His unexpected return has been met with public indifference and has caused no demonstrations of public support or outrage.

The trial is broadcast live on radio, and each night the nation’s television carries taped coverage of the day’s proceedings.

Crowds gather around their radios in the streets of Bangui to hear the trial, expected to last at least until March 27.

Bokassa is a former French army officer who transferred to the Central African army in 1962, seized power in a military coup in 1966 and declared himself emperor in an elaborate coronation in 1977.