October 18, 2017

Islamist rebel gets 9 years imprisonment for Timbuktu destruction

Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi appears at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, August 22, 2016 at the start of his trial on charges of involvement in the destruction of historic mausoleums in Timbuktu during Mali’s 2012 conflict

War crimes judges on Tuesday sentenced a former Islamist rebel who admitted wrecking holy shrines during Mali’s 2012 conflict to nine years in prison, in the first such case to focus on destruction of cultural heritage.

During a brief trial at the International Criminal Court in August Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi asked for forgiveness and said he had been swept up in an “evil wave” by al Qaeda and the Ansar Dine Islamist groups that briefly seized control of the ancient sites.

In June and July of 2012 “10 of the most important and well-known sites in Timbuktu were attacked and destroyed. … a war activity aimed at breaking the soul of the people,” said presiding Judge Raul Pangalangan.

A museum guard displays a burnt ancient manuscript at the Ahmed Baba Institute in Timbuktu

A museum guard displays a burnt ancient manuscript at the Ahmed Baba Institute in Timbuktu

Prosecutors had demanded a sentence of 9 to 11 years for al-Mahdi, who sat quietly in a gray suit, nodding as the verdict was read aloud.

Judges said the sentence took into account al-Mahdi’s expression of remorse and cooperation with the court.

Al-Mahdi admitted to involvement in the destruction of key historic mausoleums and religious sites in Timbuktu dating from Mali’s 14th-century golden age as a trading hub and centre of Sufi Islam, a branch of the religion seen as idolatrous by some hardline Muslim groups.

A UN peacekeeper stands guard at the Djinguereber mosque during a visit by a UN delegation on election day in Timbuktu

A UN peacekeeper stands guard at the Djinguereber mosque during a visit by a UN delegation on election day in Timbuktu

The rubble left from an ancient mausoleum destroyed by Islamist militants is seen in Timbuktu

The rubble left from an ancient mausoleum destroyed by Islamist militants is seen in Timbuktu

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