Al Mahdi case: accused makes an admission of guilt at trial opening, 22 August 2016
Former Malian Islamist and leader of a group alleged to have links to Al Qaeda, Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi, admitted guilt during his trial over the war crime consisting the destruction of historical and religious monuments in Timbuktu.
The trial opened on Monday, 22, before Trial Chamber VIII at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, the Netherlands.
This is the first international trial focusing on the destruction of historical and religious monuments, and the first ICC case where the defendant made an admission of guilt.
The trial, the first concerning the situation in Mali before the ICC, started with the reading of an extract of the confirmed charge against the accused and the Presiding judge asked the accused to confirm that he understood the charge. Al Mahdi, which means the guided one, admitted guilt as to the charge.
Accordingly, the judges questioned the accused in order to confirm that: (a) the accused understood the nature and consequences of the admission and (b) the admission was made voluntarily after sufficient consultation with his Defence counsel. After that, the Office of the Prosecutor started the presentation of its case which is expected to last for two to three days.
Once the Prosecution concludes its presentation, the legal representative of the victims as well as the Defence will present their remarks. In addition, the judges have agreed that the Defence may request the introduction at a later stage of two Defence witnesses’ statements in writing relating to the possible sentence. The judges will thereafter deliberate and in due course pronounce a decision on the guilt or innocence of the accused and the possible sentence.
Al Mahdi led al-Hesbah, which acted for the Islamic court of Timbuktu, while he was a member of Ansar Dine, a Tuareg rebel group allied with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
The former teacher in his 40s is accused of directing attacks on nine mausoleums and the Sidi Yahia mosque in Timbuktu, a trade hub that became Islam’s “intellectual and spiritual capital” in Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Nine victims will take the stand.