Chad has given life sentences to some 441 rebels following the 2021 killing of former ruler Idriss Deby, a prosecutor said.
After a mass trial, they were sentenced for “acts of terrorism, mercenarism, recruitment of child soldiers and assaulting the head of state,” said Mahamat El-Hadj Abba Nana on Tuesday, prosecutor for the capital N’Djamena.
Nana said “more than 400 were sentenced” to life, while 24 other defendants were acquitted.
The trial of 465 members of the Libya-based Front for Change and Concord in Chad [FACT] rebel group started on February 13 behind closed doors at Klessoum prison, 20 kilometres southeast of the capital.
In early 2021, FACT launched an offensive on the north of the country from bases in Libya.
On April 20, the army announced that Marshal Deby, Chad’s ruler for the previous three decades, had died from wounds sustained in the fighting.
His death was announced just a day after he had been declared victor of a presidential election that gave him a sixth term in office.
Deby, 68, was shot while visiting troops on the frontline against FACT rebels who had moved south from Chad’s northern border with Libya and were advancing towards the capital.
He was a key ally in the West’s anti-rebel campaign in the unstable Sahel, particularly due to the relative strength of Chad’s military.
Deby was immediately succeeded by one of his sons, General Mahamat Idriss Deby, who took the helm at the head of a 15-member military junta.
Rebel group rejects verdict
Several defendants were also ordered to pay damages of more than $32 million to the state and $1.6 million to the ex-president’s family, said FACT lawyer Francis Lokoulde, who suggested there would be an appeal.
“It’s a masquerade that follows no law, no convention”, said FACT leader Mahamat Mahdi Ali.
“All that comes from a willingness to criminalise our struggle. The verdict is a non-event,” he said.
Defence lawyers had protested at the concise notice after the mass trial had been announced just days before it started on February 13.
The new ruler had promised to hold free elections within 18 months, but that deadline was extended for another two years.
Protests last October to mark the initially promised end to military rule met with a deadly crackdown.