BURKINA FASO: Alleged coup plotter jailed for 10 years

OUAGADOUGOU, 18 April 2004 (IRIN) - Army captain Luther Ouali Diapagri, the alleged leader of a plot to overthrow Burkinabe President Blaise Compaore, has been jailed for 10 years by a military court after being convicted of treason and endangering state security.

Three of his alleged conspirators received lighter jail sentences when their 11-day trial ended on Saturday.

Three other defendants received suspended sentences.

The remaining six defendants, including opposition politician Norbert Tiendrebeogo, were acquitted.

The prison sentence imposed on Ouali was less than the 20 years sought by state prosecutor Abdoulaye Barry.

Ouali admitted to the court that he had seriously considered mounting a coup to depose Compaore.

However, the evidence that emerged during the trial indicated that Ouali and his comrades were ordinary soldiers frustrated at their failure to claim backpay which they believed was owed to them, rather than die-hard revolutionaries bent on overthrowing the government.

Ouali told the court that he was satisfied with the trial, because it had allowed him and his colleagues to publicly air their grievances. "I have achieved my objective because the press and the public know about my claims now," he said.

However, Ouali's defence lawyer, Adrien Nion, said he intended to appeal against the verdict. "The number of people acquitted or released (with suspended sentences) shows that some of these (other) court decisions contain the seeds of negative thinking," Nion said. "We now have the proof that this was not a serious conspiracy."

Two of Ouali's co-conspirators, Captain Boulibie Bayoulou and Sergeant Babou Nahon, were sentenced to six years in jail. A third, Corporal Bassanah Bassolet, was given a five-year prison sentence. The panel of judges ruled that all three had played "an active role" in the coup plot.

The 11 soldiers and two civilians on trial had been in custody since their arrest in October last year.

Nine of them were released after the verdicts were announced.

One of those given a suspended sentence was protestant pastor Israel Pare, who had been accused of being the "spiritual father" of the conspirators.

A crowd of several dozen people listening to proceedings outside the court cheered when the judges announced that Tiendrebeogo had been acquitted.

His party, the Social Forces Front (FFS) groups supporters of the late president Thomas Sankara. Sankara was killed in the bloody 1987 coup which brought Compaore to power.

The trial attracted considerable attention abroad since state prosecutor Abdoulaye Barry had accused neighbouring Cote d'Ivoire of funding the conspirators and promising to supply them with arms.

Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo has repeatedly accused Burkina Faso of supporting the rebel movement that has occupied the north of Cote d'Ivoire since September 2002 and there is no love lost between him and Compaore.

However, Ouali said during the trial that the 50 million CFA (US$100,000) he had received from Colonel Raphael Logbo, a military aide of Gbagbo, had simply been used to buy three pickup trucks to set up a transport company. He explained that he and Logbo had been friends since they were classmates together at an Ivorian military academy in Bouake.

The government of Cote d'Ivoire denied any involvement in the alleged coup attempt.

Landlocked Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in Africa, has suffered five coup coups since it gained independence from France in 1960.

Theme (s): Conflict, Governance,


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