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Ekeomah Atuonwu

Lawyers for ex-Burkina Faso leader Thomas Sankara’s family demanded on Thursday that former President Blaise Compaore be extradited after he was sentenced to life in prison in absentia for the assassination of the revolutionary icon in 1987.

After a six-month trial, a military court sentenced Compaore, who seized power in a coup that coincided with Sankara’s death in 1987 and now lives in exile in Ivory Coast.

For 34 years, the impoverished and volatile West African state had been plagued by the case.

Sankara’s death was taboo for the entire 27-year reign of Sankara’s comrade-in-arms, Compaore, until he was forced out by a public uprising in 2014.

Extraditing Compaore, according to lawyer Prosper Farama, is “a fight for the Burkinabe state, for the Burkinabe people.”

“If we want justice to be done and for this justice to have a meaning, the state must use all means, while respecting the rights of those who have been sentenced, to implement this decision,” he told a press conference.

Hyacinthe Kafando, an army officer suspected of leading the hit squad, and General Gilbert Diendere, an army commander at the time of the assassination, were also sentenced to life in prison by a court in the capital, Ouagadougou.

Compaore, Kafando, and Diendere were all convicted of endangering state security. Eight additional defendants were sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to twenty years.

Sankara, a fiery Marxist-Leninist who blasted the West for neocolonialism and hypocrisy, was assassinated on October 15, 1987, less than four years after ascending to power as an army captain at the age of 33.

Former President Blaise Compaore  was sentenced to life in prison in absentia for the assassination of the revolutionary icon Thomas Sankara /News24/

Extradition Issues

Compaore, 71, seized power and ruled Burkina Faso until 2014, when popular protests forced him into exile in neighboring Ivory Coast.

He is a supporter of Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara and cannot be extradited because he obtained Ivorian citizenship in 2016.

Farama accepted that Compaore’s nationality “poses a problem” but noted that Kafando was not a naturalised Ivorian and thus could be extradited.

“If afterwards they are eligible for an amnesty or a pardon, let that be done in line with professional standards,” he added.

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