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Mali defence minister vows to support coup leader's trial
by Staff Writers
Bamako (AFP) Dec 02, 2013

Mali's defence minister vowed Monday he would not pose "any obstacle" to the court case against General Amadou Sanogo, the leader of a March 2012 coup that plunged the country into crisis.

Sanogo, a divisive figure in the west African country, was arrested on November 27 and charged along with 15 other people, mostly fellow soldiers from his inner circle, for alleged crimes during the coup and its aftermath.

Sanogo still commands support in some circles, including key segments of the army, but Defence Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga -- part of a new government sworn in after presidential elections in July and August -- said he would fully cooperate with judicial authorities.

"I will not pose any obstacle. I will give my authorisation, I will give my assistance for all (army) elements involved in the judicial process, so that the people will have to go explain themselves before the judge," Maiga told journalists.

He said Sanogo's arrest was not at the "government's initiative".

"It's a judicial process at the initiative of families that are trying to find out what happened to their relatives... whom they haven't heard from," he said.

"For us, it's also part of restoring the honour of the army, restoring the image that citizens should have of the army and restoring the ethic that soldiers themselves must have to conduct the missions that are expected of them."

The government says Sanogo has been charged with complicity in kidnappings, but a source close to the judge in the case told AFP the charges also include murder, complicity to murder and carrying out kidnappings.

A justice ministry source said the order to arrest Sanogo was given "at the highest level".

Sanogo's coup toppled what had been heralded as one of west Africa's most stable democracies and precipitated a crisis in which Al-Qaeda-linked groups seized control of the country's north, ruling with a brutal vision of Islamic law until a French-led military intervention forced them out.

In the months after the coup and a failed counter-coup in April 2012, Sanogo's then-headquarters in the central town of Kati were the scene of abuses and killings carried out against soldiers seen as loyal to ousted president Amadou Toumani Toure.

Politicians, journalists and civil society leaders were also victims of the junta's brutality.

The defence minister, who was serving as Toure's foreign minister before the coup, was one of several cabinet members arrested when Sanogo overthrew the government.


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