OUAGADOUGOU – A military court in Burkina Faso on Wednesday sentenced former President Blaise Compaore to life in prison for the 1987 assassination of revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara.
Applause erupted in the courtroom as the long-awaited verdict was read, and the curtain fell on a case that has plagued this impoverished and unstable state for 34 years.
The court also handed down life sentences to Hyacinthe Kafando, an officer suspected of leading the commando, and General Gilbert Diendere, an army commander at the time of the assassination, which coincided with a coup that brought Compaoré to power.
Compaoré, who lives in exile in Ivory Coast after being overthrown by public protests in 2014, and Kafando, who has been on the run since 2016, were tried in absentia.
The six-month trial was watched closely by many in the landlocked Sahel nation, for whom Sankara’s bloody death remains a dark stain in the country’s history.
Sankara, a staunch Marxist-Leninist who denounced the West for its neocolonialism and hypocrisy, was shot dead on October 15, 1987, just over four years after he came to power as an army captain at just 33.
He and 12 colleagues were killed by a commando during a meeting of the ruling National Revolutionary Council.
The death of the left-wing icon was taboo during Compaoré’s 27-year reign.
The court in the capital, Ouagadougou, found Compaoré, Kafando and Diendere all guilty of endangering state security.
Compaoré and Diendere were also found guilty of complicity in murder and Kafando of murder.
Their sentences exceeded the requirements of military prosecutors.
They had asked for 30 years for Compaoré and Kafando and 20 years for Diendere, who is already serving a 20-year sentence for an attempted military coup in 2015.
Eight other defendants received sentences ranging from three to 20 years in prison, while three defendants were acquitted.