ICC reduces Malian jihadist’s jail sentence

The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Thursday ordered a two-year reduction in a jail term handed to Malian jihadist Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi for his role in destroying the fabled shrines of Timbuktu.

A panel of three judges “decided to reduce his nine-year sentence of imprisonment by two years. The date for the completion of his sentence is therefore set to 18 September 2022,” the ICC said in a statement.

Mahdi was the first person to be convicted by the Hague-based ICC for the war crime of attacking a nation’s cultural heritage, over the destruction of the UNESCO world heritage site at Timbuktu.

The town was occupied by the jihadist group Ansar Dine, one of the Al-Qaeda-linked groups which controlled Mali for around 10 months in 2012 before being driven out by a French-led international intervention.

They took pickaxes to 14 of the town’s famous mausoleums of revered Muslim figures.

He surrendered to the court in 2015 and was sentenced the following year.

Mahdi apologised for his role in the destruction at Timbuktu in October as he asked judges to release him from prison. He cut his long curly hair short and shaved his beard for the hearing.

His lawyers said he was a changed man who had learned to play guitar and to sew while in jail, his lawyer told the ICC.

Judges said they had considered factors “including the possible social instability in northern Mali that early release may cause, Mahdi’s prospect for resocialisation and resettlement and his cooperation” with the court.

The ICC has estimated the value of the damage caused by Mahdi at 2.7 million euros ($3 million).