Burkina Faso ousted leader's trial branded a 'witch hunt'

File: Blaise Compaore, who now lives in exile in the Ivory Coast, and 32 of his former ministers are being prosecuted for "murder, beating and deliberate wounding and complicity" in the April 27 trial. Photo: EPA/Ian Langsdon

OUAGADOUGOU - Former Burkina Faso president Blaise Compaore goes on trial next week over the deadly crackdown against the popular uprising that toppled him, in what has been branded a "witch hunt" by his supporters.

Thirty-three people were killed when the authorities crushed street protests against the long-serving Compaore in October 2014, according to an official toll.

Compaore, who now lives in exile in the Ivory Coast, and 32 of his former ministers are being prosecuted for "murder, beating and deliberate wounding and complicity" in the April 27 trial.

READ: Burkina Faso issues warrant to Compaore over Sankara murder

"We have no illusions, the dice have been thrown," Compoare's Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP) said in a statement Wednesday, accusing the government of using the country's institutions to "settle political scores" in a "witch hunt".

The regime is being prosecuted for only seven of the deaths and the wounding of 82 people.

The trial in the impoverished West African country will focus on a meeting when ministers authorised the use of force by the army against the protesters, the supreme court prosecutor said in February.

All 32 former ministers on trial face the death penalty. Those who remain in Burkina Faso have been banned from leaving the country.

After 27 years in power, Compaore had attempted to modify the constitution to allow him to serve a fifth mandate, sparking the popular revolt that led to his ouster.

READ: Burkina coup general charged over 1987 murder of Thomas Sankara

The former Burkina leader has taken Ivorian citizenship and is a long-time ally of Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara.

In September 2015, soldiers still loyal to Compaore launched a failed coup against the transitional government, and in October last year the authorities said they had thwarted another attempt to seize power.

The former French colony has been blighted by numerous coups and mutinies since gaining independence in 1960.

AFP

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