Ex-Leader of Burkina Faso Convicted in Killing of Thomas Sankara, His Predecessor

A military tribunal in Burkina Faso convicted in absentia a former president, Blaise Compaoré, and sentenced him on Wednesday to life imprisonment for his role in the assassination of his predecessor, Thomas Sankara, in 1987.

Mr. Compaoré, who lives in exile in Ivory Coast and refused to participate in the trial, was not present for the verdict — the climax of a much-anticipated attempt to deliver justice for one of Africa’s most infamous political assassinations.

Mr. Sankara, a firebrand Marxist revolutionary whose principled rule and defiance of the West earned him adulation across Africa, was gunned down by soldiers in the capital, Ouagadougou, in October 1987 as part of the military coup that brought Mr. Compaoré, a longtime friend, to power.

Mr. Compaoré went on to rule Burkina Faso with an iron fist until 2014, when popular protests forced him to flee to Ivory Coast with the help of French soldiers. He suppressed any discussion of Mr. Sankara’s death for years, and he always denied any role in it.

The military tribunal had been carried out in a heavily protected courthouse since October, hearing evidence against Mr. Compaoré and 13 other men, mostly former soldiers and their commanders. Twelve other people were killed alongside Mr. Sankara, mostly aides who had been meeting with him when soldiers turned up outside their door.

The legal proceedings were briefly delayed in late January after the military seized power in the landlocked West African nation, the most recent of several military coups since the country’s independence from France in 1960.

The tribunal also delivered a sentence of life imprisonment against Hyacinthe Kafando, Mr. Compaoré’s former head of security, and Gen. Gilbert Diendéré, a senior army commander at the time of the assassination.

Like Mr. Compaoré, Mr. Kafando was not present for the verdict, having fled into hiding years ago. Mr. Diendéré has been in prison since 2015 for his part in a failed coup following the ouster of Mr. Compaoré a year earlier.

Of the other accused men, eight were sentenced to between three and 20 years of imprisonment by the tribunal, and three were acquitted.

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