A military court in Burkina Faso has handed down a life term to former president Blaise Compaoré over the 1987 assassination of revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara.
On Wednesday, the special Burkinabé court sentenced Campaoré to life in absentia, but also handed life sentences to Hyacinthe Kafando – an officer believed to have led the hit squad that killed Sankara – and General Gilbert Diendéré, an army commander at the time of the assassination, which coincided with a coup that brought Compaoré to power.
Compaoré has been living in exile in Côte d’Ivoire after being toppled by public protests in 2014, while Kafando has been on the run since 2016.
The six-month trial – which was punctuated by a coup d’etat in January – brings the curtain down on a 34-year saga on trying to bring the revolutionary leader’s killers to justice.
Applause reportedly broke out in the courtroom once the verdict was pronounced.
Repercussions of Sankara’s assassination
The case has been avidly followed in Burkina Faso, for whom Sankara’s assassination remains an oil-stain on the country’s post-colonial history.
A fiery Marxist-Leninist who lambasted the West for neo-colonialism and hypocrisy, Thomas Sankara was gunned down on 15 October 1987, just over four years after coming to power as an army captain at the age of 33.
He and 12 colleagues were shot dead by a hit squad at a meeting of the ruling National Revolutionary Council.
However, the death of the left-wing icon remained shrouded in mystery throughout Blaise Compaoré’s subsequent 27-year hold on power.
Court sentences more severe than expected
The special court in Ouagadougou found Compaoré, Kafando and Diendéré all guilty of harming state security.
Compaoré and Diendéré were also found guilty of complicity in murder, and Kafando of murder.
The sentences handed down by the court have exceeded the request of military prosecutors, who had sought a 30-year term against Compaoré and Kafando and a 20-year term against Diendéré.
Eight other accused were given jail terms ranging from three to 20 years, while three defendants were acquitted.