Final decision: French court upholds extradition order for François Compaore

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In the last step of a long legal process, France has cleared the way for the extradition of Francois Compaore. The brother of Burkina Faso's former president is wanted in connection with the murder of a prominent journalist. Fearing he would not get a fair trial, his legal team have taken the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

The Council of State, France's highest court for cases involving public administration, rejected an appeal by Compaore's lawyers against a previous ruling for his extradition, saying there were no constitutional or other grounds to overturn the decision.

According to journalists from RFI who saw the court statement, the justice system in Burkina Faso had provided sufficient assurances that Compaore would be held in decent, secure conditions and would not be subject to torture or inhumane treatment.

Compaore is the younger brother of Blaise Compaore, who was ousted in a popular uprising in 2014 -- after 27 years in power that started with a coup d'etat -- and went into exile in Ivory Coast.

The murdered journalist was Norbert Zongo, director of the weekly magazine L'Independant and an investigative reporter. He had been looking into the death of David Ouedraogo, Francois Compaore's driver at the time.

His charred body was found on December 13, 1998, along with three killed colleagues in a burnt-out car on a road south of the capital Ouagadougou.

Independent investigation

Initially only one suspect, presidential guard member Marcel Kafando, was charged for the killing and later acquitted.

Burkina Faso closed the probe after freeing the guard member, but the judiciary reopened the case after Blaise Compaore had been deposed.

An independent investigation ordered by the subsequent government concluded that the assassination was linked to the professional activities of the journalist who had a track record of uncovering irregularities in the Compaore regime.

Six suspects, all members of the presidential guard, were identified by the independent investigators and three were charged.

The Burkina Faso judiciary suspects that Francois Compaore may have ordered the hit, although he has not so far been charged with any crime.

French police arrested Compaore at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris in October 2017 following an international arrest warrant issued by his country's government. In 2020, Burkina Faso made a deal with France for his extradition.

Relief, satisfaction

Burkina Faso on Friday hailed the decision as a "victory".

"We are convinced of the validity of our demand," said Ousseni Tamboura, communications minister and a government spokesman.

The support network known as Cellule Norbert Zongo for investigative journalism in West Africa (Cenozo) is also relieved.

"It's been nearly 23 years that we've been fighting for the truth," Boureima Ouedraogo, chief editor of Reporter and general secretary for the organisation Cénozo told the press.

"François Compaore has failed to convince the French justice system, whether it be with his denial that he was implicated in Zongo's murder or that he would face threats upon returning home to defend himself. For us, this is a great satisfaction."

Compaore's lawyers said on Friday that their client was ready to face his country's judiciary "with dignity, honour and responsibility".

But they added in a statement sent to AFP that he felt the extradition was politically motivated, and that the council had failed to take into account the risk of torture, inhumane treatment and of an unfair trial awaiting him.

"He would certainly be exposed to such risks if he were handed over to Burkina Faso," they said.

Compaore has appealed to the European Court of Human Rights in the hope of stopping the extradition, they said.

(with AFP)

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