Guinea sets trial date 13 years after 2009 stadium massacre

CONAKRY, Guinea (AP) — Guinea will try the alleged perpetrators of a 2009 stadium massacre that killed at least 157 people and left dozens of women raped, the justice minister announced Friday, drawing praise families of the victims who waited nearly 13 years.

Justice Minister Charles Alphonse Wright said he hoped the trial – which is due to begin this year on the anniversary of the September 28 massacre – “will revisit our history, our past, that we will come out all of this trial with a new vision of our Guinea”.

More than a dozen suspects, including former junta leader Moussa “Dadis” Camara, have been charged with crimes related to the massacre, but years have passed without a trial date ever being set. Last year, human rights groups complained of a “clear lack of will to complete preparations”.

“This date that we have been waiting for for a long time arrived today. It was time for this trial to take place,” said Bissiri Diallo, who lost his 18-year-old son in the massacre. “We hope that all the truths will come out.

“The death of my child at the stadium on September 28, 2009 forever extinguished a light in my soul,” she added. “I feel no joy, no desire to live since that day. I hope this trial will rekindle that light in my soul.

That day, security forces opened fire on a Conakry stadium where people were protesting coup leader Camara’s plans to run for president. Camara fled into exile after surviving an assassination attempt several months after the stadium massacre. Last year he finally returned to Conakry, where he told supporters he had faith in the country’s justice system and was “fully prepared to tell my part of the truth”.

For years, the Guinean government had sought to prevent his return, fearing it would fuel political instability. However, another coup last year brought to power a military junta more favorable to Camara’s return.

Camara’s junta claims that “uncontrolled” elements of the army carried out the rapes and murders. But Camara’s top aides were at the stadium and did nothing to stop the killings and rapes, according to a Human Rights Watch report.

Human Rights Watch said its investigation showed Camara’s red-beret presidential guard surrounded the stadium where opposition supporters had gathered and blocked exits. Troops entered and immediately opened fire on the crowd with AK-47s as panicked protesters tried to flee.

Many were crushed to death, while others were shot as they attempted to scale the stadium walls.

Human Rights Watch also said dozens of women were arrested at the stadium where the September 28 massacre took place and at clinics in the Guinean capital, Conakry, where they were seeking medical treatment. They were driven in military vehicles to villas, where they were gang-raped by men in uniform for several days.

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Elna M. Lemons