- Title: Residents react as Islamist rebel jailed for destroying Timbuktu sites
- Date: 27th September 2016
- Summary: TIMBUKTU, MALI (SEPTEMBER 27, 2016) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF WOMEN SITTING BY VEGETABLE STANDS IN MARKET VARIOUS OF CITY VIEWS FROM ROOFTOP SIDI YAHYA MOSQUE / MAN WALKS BY PEOPLE ON MOTORCYCLE DRIVE BY SIDI YAHYA MOSQUE VARIOUS OF MALI CITIZEN BABA HAIDARA AND OTHER MEN SITTING OUTSIDE MOSQUE HAIDARA WALKING AWAY FROM CAMERA (SOUNDBITE) (French) TIMBUKTU RESIDENT, BABA HAIDARA, SAYING: "Timbuktu is a religious, forgiving, and tolerant city. Ahmad al-Faqi apologised, and he regretted his actions. So being a city of tolerance and Islam, I think it is a relief to us." (SOUNDBITE) (French) SIDI YAHYA MOSQUE IMAM, ALPHADI WANGARA, SAYING: "Ahmad al-Faqi was indeed condemned by the ICC. If he committed a crime in Timbuktu or on the people of Timbuktu, it is for Timbuktu and the people of Timbuktu to judge him. He asked for forgiveness as a Muslim and as a believer. We are also believers. Our religion is one of forgiveness, so it up to us to forgive him. That's how it would work in Timbuktu. But he was judged by the ICC. As a religious, Muslim man, I personally don't recognise the ICC's justice system. I know that the ICC is not just. So it is up to us to sentence or forgive Ahmad al-Faqi. It comes back to us. He is Muslim. We are Muslims, so justice should be up to us." MALI GOVERNMENT AND UNESCO (UNITED NATIONS EDUCATIONAL, SCIENTIFIC, AND CULTURAL ORGANISATION) POSTER READING (French): "RECONSTRUCTION OF DAMAGED CULTURAL HERITAGE" AND "A UNESCO AND MALIAN GOVERNMENT EFFORT TO BUILD LASTING PEACE IN MALI" HEAD OF TIMBUKTU CULTURAL MISSION, AL BOUKHARI BEN ESSAYOUTI, SITTING AT DESK BEHIND LAPTOP (SOUNDBITE) (French) HEAD OF TIMBUKTU CULTURAL MISSION (MALI GOVERNMENT), AL BOUKHARI BEN ESSAYOUTI, SAYING: "As a Muslim, I believe that when someone apologises, even if it is to God, we should forgive them. So unquestionably, from my point of view, I think that his apologies are reasonable. But other than his apologies and whether or not the nine-year sentence is or isn't fair, the trial presents another challenge. The trial did not only seek to condemn Ahmad al-Faqi. Its goal was to make people understand that just like when people are condemned for killing a man, when you destroy heritage, you can also be condemned. So that is the main message that we received."
- Embargoed: 12th October 2016 17:44
- Keywords: Mali war crimes Timbuktu Islamist rebel shrines 2012 prison
- Location: TIMBUKTU, MALI
- City: TIMBUKTU, MALI
- Country: Mali
- Topics: Conflicts/War/Peace
- Reuters ID: LVA00151CG1MV
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Some Mali residents said they were prepared to forgive a former Islamist rebel as he was sentenced on Tuesday (September 27) to nine years in prison for wrecking holy shrines in Timbuktu.
Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi expressed remorse at the International Criminal Court, admitting the destruction of 10 mausoleums and religious sites in Timbuktu during Mali's 2012 conflict.
Nine of the sites were on the UNESCO World Heritage list, and al-Mahdi struck at the most meaningfully religious ones, said the presiding judge.
Specifically, the war crimes judges said, al-Mahdi planned, led, and participated in the attacks, supplying pick-axes and in one case a bulldozer.
Such acts have rarely been prosecuted despite being illegal under international law.
Residents in Timbuktu had mixed views about the verdict.
"Timbuktu is a religious, forgiving, and tolerant city. Ahmad al-Faqi apologised, and he regretted his actions. So being a city of tolerance and Islam, I think it is a relief to us," said one Timbuktu resident, Baba Haidara.
"Our religion is one of forgiveness, so it up to us to forgive him," said the Imam of the Sidi Yahya mosque in Timbuktu, Alphadi Wangara. "As a religious, Muslim man, I personally don't recognise the ICC's justice system. I know that the ICC is not just. So it is up to us to sentence or forgive Ahmad al-Faqi."
The ICC has been examining events in Mali since 2012, when Tuareg rebels seized part of the north, imposing a strict interpretation of Islamic law. French and Malian troops pushed them back the following year.
During his brief trial in August, al-Mahdi asked for forgiveness and said he had been swept up in an "evil wave" when al Qaeda and the Ansar Dine Islamist groups briefly seized control of the ancient sites.
Prosecutors and the defence had agreed beforehand to accept a sentence of 9 to 11 years for the former religious teacher.
Judges said the sentence took into account al-Mahdi's calls on other Muslims not to make the same mistakes he did.
The head of Timbuktu's cultural mission, Al Boukhari Ben Essayouti, oversaw reconstruction of the city's damaged sites with UNESCO's assistance.
He said the trial sent a clear message. "Its goal was to make people understand that just like when people are condemned for killing a man, when you destroy heritage, you can also be condemned. So that is the main message that we received," said Essayouti.
UNESCO said in a statement the verdict was "a landmark in gaining recognition for the importance of heritage for humanity as a whole and for the communities that have preserved it over the centuries".
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