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Monday, May 30, 2016

Chad's Ex-Ruler Sentenced to Life in Prison

Former Chad ruler Hissene Habre was sentenced to life in prison in Dakkar, Senegal, on Monday. Photo from Senegal television

By Allen Cone

DAKAR, Senegal, May 30 (UPI) -- Chad's former leader, who was accused of being responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people during his rule from 1982 to 1990, was sentenced Monday to life in prison.

Hissene Habre had fled to Senegal after being toppled in a coup in 1990 in the central African nation.

"Hissene Habre, this court finds you guilty of crimes against humanity, rape, forced slavery, and kidnapping," as well as war crimes, said Gberdao Gustave Kam, Burkinabe president of the Extraordinary African Chamber court in Senegal. "The court condemns you to life in prison."

In 2013, a court in Chad sentenced him to death in absentia for crimes against humanity.

Kam gave Habre 15 days to appeal the latest sentence.

Habre shouted "Down with France-afrique!" referring to the term used for France's continuing influence on its former colonies as he raised raised his arms into the air after the verdict.

Habre was physically dragged into the courtroom when the trial started last July.

Victims and families of those killed cheered and embraced each other after the verdict.

"The feeling is one of complete satisfaction," said Clement Abeifouta, president of a Habre survivors association.

An African Union-backed court hadn't previously tried a former ruler for human rights abuses.

After living in exile in Senegal for 22 years, Habre was detained in Dakar in July 2013.

Habre frequently disrupted proceedings, refusing to recognize its legitimacy.

He denied the mass killings.

Survivors gave gruesome details of torture by Habre's secret police. Victims suffered electric shocks, near-asphyxia, cigarette burns and gas squirted into their eyes. Some had their heads placed between sticks joined by rope, which was then twisted.