N’DJAMENA, Chad -- More than 400 rebels accused of killing Chad's former president have been sentenced to life in prison.
The rebels were convicted of terrorism, using child soldiers and undermining Chad’s integrity and security, an appeals court ruled in a closed hearing on Tuesday.
The month-long mass trial charged 454 members of the Front For Change and Concord rebel group for killing longtime President Idriss Deby Itno, who died in murky circumstances in 2021 just two days after winning a sixth term in office. Two dozen people on trial were acquitted and it's unclear exactly how many were convicted.
In addition to life imprisonment, leader of the rebel group, Mahamat Mahdi Ali has been fined some $30 million to be paid to Chad's government for damages.
Lawyers for the defendants said they’ll appeal the verdict with Chad's Supreme Court. “As this decision has been made public by the court of appeal, there is only the right to appeal,” said Lokoulde Francis, a lawyer for the accused.
Deby seized power in 1990 when his rebel forces overthrew then-President Hissene Habre, who was later convicted of human rights abuses at an international tribunal in Senegal. Deby ran the country for more than three decades and died of unspecified injuries when he visited troops fighting the rebel group, which was seeking to gain control of the oil-rich Central African nation. No details of his death were made public.
Hours after Deby’s death, Chad’s military named his son, Mahamat Idriss Deby, as the country’s interim leader for what was intended to be an 18-month period. However, last year the government announced it was extending the transition for two more years, which led to protests across the country.