Ex-Chadian leader dragged into courtroom for trial

AP News
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Posted: Sep 07, 2015 2:29 PM
Ex-Chadian leader dragged into courtroom for trial

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Security officers dragged former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre into the courtroom Monday after he refused to take part in his trial on war crimes charges, and some of his supporters had to be forcibly removed after they charged to the front of the court.

Habre, 72, is being tried here in Senegal and has denounced his trial as being politically motivated and has refused to participate. The special court was established by Senegal and the African Union and Habre's trial is the first time one African country is trying the former leader of another for crimes against humanity.

On Monday, it took four security guards in face masks at one point to hold him down once he was inside.

Habre tried to thrash about as witnesses' names and a summation of the charges against him were read aloud. Then he sang and cried out: "Lies!" Dozens of his supporters at another point rose and started yelling as he was held in his chair. Several more were forced out. His legal team walked out, though his court-appointed lawyers remained.

"Hissene Habre was the absolute king in Chad, throwing people in jail, having them tortured as he pleased, and now he's acting like a spoiled child who won't take his medicine," said Fatime Sakine, 53, who will testify as a victim. "He's just afraid of us and afraid of the truth."

Sakine said she was subjected to electroshocks, bindings and beatings during 15 months in prison from 1984 to 1986.

"Habre can make all the noise all he wants, but he doesn't get to decide whether he should be tried, or if the victims get justice," said Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch.

The former Chadian leader lived comfortably in exile for more than two decades in Senegal's capital until he was arrested in 2013 and ordered to go before a special court. His government is accused of being responsible for some 40,000 deaths during his eight-year rule which ended in 1990, according to a truth commission report.

He faces charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture, and could be imprisoned for up to 40 years if convicted.

The trial resumed on Monday after a suspension in July to allow the Senegalese lawyers appointed for Habre to prepare his defense after he refused representation.

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AP writer Babacar Dione contributed to this report from Dakar, Senegal.