Burkina Faso: Sankara assassination suspects ordered to pay US$1.3 million in damages

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The military court in Ouagadougou on Tuesday sentenced former Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaoré and nine other defendants to pay more than 800 million CFA francs (1.2 million euros) in damages to the beneficiaries of former head of state Thomas Sankara and his companions assassinated in 1987.

The amount of damages for “reparation of moral and economic prejudice” amounts to 807.5 million CFA francs, including “a symbolic franc” for the heirs of Thomas Sankara, said Judge Urbain Méda.

This sum will have to be paid jointly by Blaise Compaoré, the former commander of his guard Hyacinthe Kafando and the former head of the army in 1987 Gilbert Diendéré, all sentenced to life imprisonment in early April for their involvement in the assassination, as well as seven other defendants sentenced to between three and twenty years in prison.

According to the court decision, the Burkinabe government will have to compensate the beneficiaries if the convicted persons are unable to pay the amounts.

The military court, however, rejected a request for the return of Thomas Sankara’s property to his family.

“We deplore the chamber’s decision not to grant this request for the return of property. With the family of Thomas Sankara, we will decide whether or not to appeal,” said Benewendé Stanislas Sankara, one of the lawyers for the Sankara family.

Thomas Sankara, who came to power in a coup in 1983, was killed along with twelve of his companions by a commando during a meeting at the headquarters of the National Council of the Revolution (CNR) in Ouagadougou. He was 37 years old.

The death of Thomas Sankara, who wanted to “decolonize mentalities,” was a taboo subject during Mr. Compaoré’s 27 years in power, forced out after a popular uprising in 2014.

He has since been living in exile in Côte d’Ivoire and has been sentenced in absentia, as has Hyacinthe Kafando, who has been on the run since 2016.