Tim­buktu mau­soleum de­struc­tion sus­pect in court


An al­leged Is­lamic rad­i­cal charged with in­volve­ment in the 2012 de­struc­tion of his­toric mau­soleums and a mosque in Tim­buktu made his first ap­pear­ance at the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court on Wed­nes­day.

Ah­mad Al Faqi Al Mahdi, who was sent to the court over the week­end, con­firmed his iden­tity at the hear­ing and told Judge Cuno Tar­fusser he was about 40 years old and a civil ser­vant in Mali.

He wasn’t re­quired to en­ter a plea and made no com­ment on the charges when Tar­fusser gave him the op­por­tu­nity. Tar­fusser said a hear­ing would be held Jan. 18 to as­sess if ev­i­dence against Al Mahdi is strong enough to merit putting him on trial.

Al Mahdi is the first sus­pect in the court’s cus­tody charged with the war crime of de­lib­er­ately at­tack­ing re­li­gious or his­tor­i­cal mon­u­ments.

The en­tire city of Tim­buktu in Mali, a his­toric cen­ter of Is­lamic learn­ing, is listed as a World Her­itage Site by UNESCO. Is­lamic rad­i­cals over­ran the city in 2012 and de­stroyed 14 of Tim­buktu’s 16 mau­soleums, one-room struc­tures that house the tombs of the city’s great thinkers. The ex­trem­ists con­demned the build­ings as totems of idol­a­try. The 14 mau­soleums have since been re­stored by the United Na­tions.

The ICC said it is­sued an ar­rest war­rant for Al Mahdi on Sept. 18 and he was sent to the court over the week­end by author­i­ties in Niger. But the court hasn’t said any­thing about the cir­cum­stances of his ar­rest.

Rights groups wel­comed Al Mahdi’s ar­rest, but urged pros­e­cu­tors to file more charges against him.

In a state­ment, a group of hu­man rights or­ga­ni­za­tions said that they filed a crim­i­nal com­plaint in Mali ear­lier this year against Al Mahdi and 14 other peo­ple, ac­cus­ing them of crimes in­clud­ing rape, sex­ual slav­ery and forced mar­riage.

“So we do be­lieve that it is very im­por­tant for the of­fice of the pros­e­cu­tor of the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court to take into ac­count the cred­i­ble ev­i­dence that has been pro­vided within the na­tional sys­tem,” said Car­rie Comer of the In­ter­na­tional Fed­er­a­tion for Hu­man Rights.


A pic­ture taken on May 2, 2010 shows the Is­lamic cen­ter and a mosque in Tim­buktu, Mali.

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