Guinea 2009 stadium massacre victims hope for justice as trial starts

FILE PHOTO: People enter the stadium before the crackdown in Conakry in this frame grab taken from September 28, 2009 footage. REUTERS/Reuters TV/File Photo

DAKAR (Reuters) - The trial begins on Wednesday of eleven men accused of responsibility for a 2009 stadium massacre and mass rape by Guinean security forces that survivors and family members hope will bring them justice after 13 years.

Eleven men, including former president and military ruler Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, have been indicted and will face trial for responsibility in the massacre of over 150 people and the rape of at least a dozen women in Guinea's capital, Conakry.

Camara has denied responsibility for the incident, blaming it on errant soldiers, including his former aide-de-camp Lieutenant Aboubacar Toumba Diakite, who is also among those indicted. He has also denied responsibility.

On Sept. 28, 2009, tens of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators held a protest in the stadium to pressure Camara not to stand for election as president of Guinea the following year.

Asmaou Diallo said she was at the protest. She told Reuters in an interview that she was assaulted and barely escaped with her life, and that her son was killed in front of her.

"The most shocking image for me that day was that of the body of my slain son. I still haven't processed what happened," said Diallo, who now heads an association of parents and victims of the massacre.

"Knowing that this trial will take place is for all the victims the beginning of hope for deliverance," she said.

After prolonged investigations and repeated delays by the previous government, the military government that seized power in September last year gave an order that the trial should start no later than Sept. 28, the anniversary of the massacre.

Camara, who was in exile in Burkina Faso following an attempted assassination and his ouster in 2009, returned to Guinea over the weekend.

He was interviewed by a prosecutor and detained on Tuesday alongside two other former senior military officers, their lawyer Pepe Antoine Lamah told journalists.

"It is in violation of the law that the prosecutor decided to incarcerate my clients," Lamah said.

At least 600 victims of the stadium incident have been identified, according to Alseny Sall, spokesperson for the Guinean Organization for Human Rights.

Sall said some 154 were killed that day by soldiers from the presidential guard, the military police, the police, and military trainees as about 50,000 people gathered at the stadium to protest.

Some relatives of those killed have said they never received their loved ones' remains.

"The hardest thing for me was not being able to mourn my husband. His body disappeared and was never returned to us. It's a situation that weighs on me," said Salimatou Bah, a rice seller.

"All we want is justice. This trial must ensure that such things never happen again in this country," she said.

(Reporting by Saliou Samb; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Nellie Peyton and Rosalba O'Brien)

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