Mali trial against ex-putsch leader to resume

A court in Mali’s capital Bamako is due to resume proceedings against former coup leader Amadou Sanogo on Thursday, according to lawyers, after fears the case had fizzled out. 

A former army captain, Sanogo and several other plotters staged a military coup against President Amadou Toumani Toure in the Sahel state in 2012, after rebels took control of the country’s north. 

But the junta led by Sanogo stepped aside under international pressure after critical northern cities such as Timbuktu and Gao fell to the rebels.

Sanogo was later arrested and then held for six years on charges of killing 21 elite “Red Berets” who opposed the putsch.

Jihadists have since commandeered the northern rebellion and spread violence to central Mali as well as neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger, killing thousands. 

Last year, a court ordered Sanogo’s temporary release, sparking fears among rights defenders that the former putschist would avoid facing trial.

But lawyers from the defence and the prosecution told AFP on Monday that the trial against Sanogo — who stands accused alongside 12 other soldiers — is due to resume on Thursday. 

The court may ratify a settlement between the plaintiffs and the accused, the lawyers suggested, without specifying whether Sanogo would receive a sentence.

Mali’s former government negotiated a financial settlement with relatives of the victims, some of whom say they have already received compensation. 

Cheick Oumar Konare, one of Sanogo’s lawyers, said the proceedings “should not exceed 48 hours,” because plaintiffs have already received compensation. 

He added that the defence is nonetheless “ready for debate, just as our clients are”. 

Ismaila Fane, a relative of one of the victims who said she had received compensation, predicted that the trial would be a “matter of form”. 

Some of the army officers involved in the 2012 putsch led by Sanogo also played roles in last year’s August 18 coup which deposed president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in Mali.

The president of Mali’s interim legislature, Colonel Malick Diaw, took part in the 2012 coup, for example.

Like in 2012, Mali’s latest putschists stepped aside after international pressure. 

They ceded power to an interim civilian government between September and October, which pledged to stage elections within 18 months.

Critics charge that the army still retains considerable influence over this interim government, however.