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Bokassa Will Go on Trial Soon

November 01, 1986|Associated Press

BANGUI, Central African Republic — Jean-Bedel Bokassa, the former dictator who proclaimed himself emperor, will be tried soon on charges of treason, murder and cannibalism, President Andre Kolingba said Friday.

Bokassa left French exile voluntarily and in secret Oct. 22 and flew to Bangui, where he was arrested immediately.

He was tried in absentia and sentenced to death in 1980, a year after his ouster in a French-backed coup. A law still on the books from French colonial days requires that a person convicted in his absence be tried again when he is captured.

At a public meeting to mark the proclamation of a new constitution, Kolingba said: "Bokassa obviously intended to create upheaval in the country. His return has failed, and he will be tried soon and in public. It is perhaps best that he is in Bangui, because this is a problem which must be settled with the least possible delay so that we can definitely bury the past."

Bokassa's French lawyer, Francis Szpiner, revealed in Paris on Thursday that the Bokassa family had asked that he handle the former dictator's defense.

Szpiner said he had no warning that Bokassa would return to his native country or any idea why he did so.

Bokassa, 65, is a former French army captain. He claims French citizenship and lived in a chateau he owns near Paris.

He was commander of the Central African Republic army when he seized power in 1966. He changed the country's name to the Central African Empire in 1977 and proclaimed himself Bokassa I in a ceremony inspired by the coronation of Napoleon I of France.

Bokassa later was implicated in the murder of 100 schoolchildren--reportedly because they refused to buy uniforms from one of his companies--at Ngaragba prison, where he has been held since his return.

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