- Title: Islamist rebel gets 9 years imprisonment for Timbuktu destruction
- Date: 27th September 2016
- Summary: TIMBUKTU, MALI (FILE - 2012) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF AL-QAEDA IN THE ISLAMIC MAGHREB (AQIM) MEMBERS DESTROYING MAUSOLEUMS
- Embargoed: 12th October 2016 12:40
- Keywords: Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi International Criminal Court shrine Islam
- Location: THE HAGUE, THE NETHERLANDS/ TIMBUKTU, MALI
- City: THE HAGUE, THE NETHERLANDS/ TIMBUKTU, MALI
- Country: Mali
- Topics: Conflicts/War/Peace
- Reuters ID: LVA00451CEPFR
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: War crimes judges on Tuesday sentenced a former Islamist rebel who admitted wrecking holy shrines during Mali's 2012 conflict to nine years in prison, in the first such case to focus on destruction of cultural heritage.
During a brief trial at the International Criminal Court in August Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi asked for forgiveness and said he had been swept up in an "evil wave" by al Qaeda and the Ansar Dine Islamist groups that briefly seized control of the ancient sites.
In June and July of 2012, 10 of the most important and well-known sites in Timbuktu were attacked and destroyed, a war activity aimed at breaking the soul of the people, presiding judge Raul Pangalangan said.
Prosecutors had demanded a sentence of 9 to 11 years for al-Mahdi, who sat quietly in a gray suit, nodding as the verdict was read aloud.
Judges said the sentence took into account al-Mahdi's expression of remorse and cooperation with the court.
"To me, continuing to give a nine-year sentence in spite of those mitigating circumstances is actually quite a strong deterrent message saying, we do take these crimes seriously. They have an impact on victims not only in the immediate vicinity, but really in the international community as a whole and hopefully this will provide some sort of deterrence," said Carrie Comer, who represents the non-governmental organisation International Federation for Human Rights, at the ICC.
Al-Mahdi admitted to involvement in the destruction of key historic mausoleums and religious sites in Timbuktu dating from Mali's 14th-century golden age as a trading hub and centre of Sufi Islam, a branch of the religion seen as idolatrous by some hardline Muslim groups.
The UNESCO said in a press release the court's decision was "a landmark in gaining recognition for the importance of heritage for humanity as a whole", and hailed it as "historic". It said it hoped this would give out a message that there could no longer be impunity in cases of destruction of cultural heritage.
- Copyright Holder: FILE REUTERS (CAN SELL)
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