Burkina Faso’s former President Blaise Compaore, the main defendant in a long-awaited trial on the 1987 assassination of his predecessor Thomas Sankara, will snub the upcoming proceedings, his Burkinabe and French attorneys said on Thursday.
“President Blaise Compaore will not be attending the political trial that is being staged against him at the military court of Ouagadougou, nor will we,” Compaore’s attorneys said.
They added that Compaore has “immunity (from prosecution) as a former head of state”.
Compaore and 13 others will face an array of charges in the death of Sankara, a charismatic revolutionary followers describe as the African Che Guevara In the trial opening on Monday.
Those accused include Compaore’s former right-hand man – General Gilbert Diendere, a previous head of the elite Presidential Security Regiment (RSP).
The pair face charges of complicity in murder, harming state security and complicity in the concealment of corpses.
Sankara took power in the Sahel state in 1983, renaming the country the following year from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso, which means “land of the honest men”.
He enacted a string of sweeping economic and social policies, including nationalisations, public housing and a ban on female genital mutilation, polygamy and forced marriages.
A putsch led by Compaore, a former friend killed Sankara on October 15, 1987, aged 37.
His widow said an autopsy revealed his body was “riddled with more than a dozen bullets”.
Graffiti calling for “Justice for Sankara” is a common sight throughout the capital, Ouagadougou.
After 27 years in power, a popular uprising forced Compaore from office in 2014. He fled to Ivory Coast, where he obtained Ivorian nationality.
An investigation into the assassination was opened in 2015 under a transitional government and a warrant for his arrest was issued the following year.
Compaore, 70, has always denied accusations that he ordered Sankara’s killing.