Chad jails Hissene Habre's policemen to life in prison

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Hissene Habre. File photoImage source, AFP
Image caption,
Hissene Habre denies charges of war crimes

A court in Chad has sentenced seven ex-policemen to life in prison for torture committed during the rule of ousted President Hissene Habre.

Another three ex-policemen were sentenced to 20 years hard labour, in the first trial of Habre's accomplices.

Mr Habre is in Senegal's custody, awaiting trial for alleged war crimes.

Dubbed "Africa's Pinochet" by his critics, he denies that thousands of people were killed and tortured during his rule from 1982 to 1990.

The men sentenced to life in prison include Mahamat Djibrine, described by investigators as one of the "most feared torturers in Chad", and Saleh Younouss, a former senior official in Mr Habre's notorious Directorate of Documentation and Security Directorate (DDS).

"Finally, finally, the men who brutalised us and then laughed in our faces for decades have got their comeuppance," Clement Abaifouta, an ex-political prisoner who now heads an association for Habre's victims, is quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.

BBC French Service analyst Abdourahmane Dia says the other five men to receive life imprisonment were sentenced in absentia, as they had fled Chad after Habre's overthrow.

In 2008, Mr Habre was sentenced to death in Chad in absentia for planning to overthrow the government.

A special court, set up by the African Union and Senegal, is due to try him for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during his rule.

Mr Habre was living in exile in Senegal at the time of his arrest in 2013.

No date has been set for the case, which will be the first use of universal jurisdiction in Africa.