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Suspect in Sankara’s Murder Denies Involvement

General Gilbert Diendere, a key defendant in a trial over the 1987 assassination of Burkina Faso’s revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara, pleaded not guilty at the landmark proceedings on Tuesday. Diendere was allegedly an architect of a coup during which Sankara was killed and his former friend and comrade Blaise Compaore came to power. The 61-year-old faces charges of harming state security, complicity in murder, concealing bodies and witness tampering. “I plead not guilty on all four counts,” Diendere said, dressed in military uniform. Sankara and 12 of his colleagues were gunned down by a hit squad on October 15, 1987, at a meeting of the ruling National Revolutionary Council (CNR). Diendere said that on the afternoon of that day, he had gone to a “sports field” at the CNR’s headquarters. He then “heard gunfire” and spoke to two soldiers he knew, who said they had “taken steps to prevent” Sankara from arresting their “boss”, referring to Compaore. After the coup, Diendere became the right-hand man to Compaore, who ruled for 27 years before being deposed by a popular uprising in 2014 and fleeing to neighboring Ivory Coast.