Two court-appointed defense lawyers requested a one-month postponement of the trial “in the name of the manifestation of the truth”, arguing that he had too little time to study “the 20,000 documents in the file “.
The president of the Ouagadougou military court, Urbain Méda, accepted their request, but suspended the proceedings for only two weeks.
“It’s a day of truth for me, my family and all Burkinabè“, declared in the morning the widow of Thomas Sankara, Mariam, present at the opening of this trial eagerly awaited by the families of the victims of the putsch of 1987.
As expected, the main defendant, Blaise Compaoré, was not present Monday morning in court.
Brought to power by the coup d’état of 1987 and overthrown by a popular uprising in 2014, Blaise Compaoré, 70, lives in Côte d’Ivoire, a country from which he obtained his nationality. His lawyers had denounced “a political trial” before “an exceptional jurisdiction”.
According to Stanislas Benewendé Sankara (no family link with Thomas Sankara, editor’s note), lawyer for the leader’s family “revolutionary“since 1997, “Compaoré’s absence is a contempt for the justice of his country of origin” and “somewhere also denotes his possible guilt”.
Twelve of the fourteen accused were present at the opening of this trial placed under high surveillance by the defense and security forces, in a country plagued by jihadist violence since 2015.
Among them, General Gilbert Diendéré, 61, one of the main army chiefs during the 1987 putsch, appeared in military attire, clearly serene and relaxed.
Subsequently becoming President Compaoré’s chief of staff, General Diendéré is already serving a 20-year prison sentence in Burkina Faso for an attempted coup in 2015.
Like Blaise Compaoré, he is accused of “complicity in assassinations”, “concealment of corpses” and “attack on the security of the State”.
Soldiers from Compaoré’s former presidential guard, including former adjutant Hyacinthe Kafando, suspected of having been the commando leader and who is currently on the run, are also among the accused.
Coming to power in a coup in 1983, Thomas Sankara was killed with twelve of his companions by a commando team during a meeting at the headquarters of the National Revolutionary Council (CNR) in Ouagadougou. He was 37 years old.
Sankara’s right-hand man, Blaise Compaoré has always denied having ordered the assassination of his brother in arms and close friend.
The death of Thomas Sankara, who wanted to “decolonize mentalities” and disrupt the world order by defending the poor and the oppressed, was a taboo subject during Mr. Compaoré’s 27 years in power.
The case was relaunched in 2015 by the democratic transition regime and an arrest warrant issued against Mr. Compaoré by the Burkinabè justice in March 2016.
During a trip to Ouagadougou in November 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron hailed the memory of Thomas Sankara and announced the lifting of defense secrecy on documents relating to his assassination.
According to Halouna Traoré, former companion of Sankara and the only survivor of the 1987 coup, the “trial leads us (us, Burkinabè, editor’s note) to look at ourselves in the mirror, to see the wrong that we have done ourselves with the complicity of the outside, because the material side of the coup d’etat is ‘has happened in Burkina Faso, but the sponsors are from outside “.
While it was pleased with the holding of the trial, the international network “Justice for Thomas Sankara, justice for Africa” noted the risk that it is “cut off from the international aspect of the case” able to shed light on the role of France, the United States and West African countries such as the Ivory Coast of Félix Houphouët Boigny and Togo of Gnassingbé Eyadema, then ulcerated by the anti-imperialist positions of this young revolutionary adored by African youth.