France on Friday authorized the extradition of Francois Compaoré, brother of the former president of Burkina Faso, to his home country where he is wanted in connection with the murder of a prominent journalist.
The Council of State, France’s highest court for matters involving government services, rejected an appeal by Compaore’s lawyers against a previous ruling before his extradition, saying there were no constitutional or other grounds to overturn the decision.
Compaore is the younger brother of Blaise Compaore, who was ousted in 2014 in a popular uprising — after 27 years in power that began with a coup d’état — and went into exile in Côte d’Ivoire.
The murdered journalist was Norbert Zongo, director of the weekly magazine L’Independant and investigative journalist. His charred body was found on December 13, 1998, along with three colleagues who had died in a burned-out car on a road south of the capital Ouagadougou.
The killings sparked mass protests in Burkina Faso and were condemned internationally.
Initially, only one suspect, member of the presidential guard Marcel Kafando, was charged with the murder and later acquitted.
Zongo had been investigating the death of David Ouedraogo, Francois Compaore’s driver.
Burkina Faso shut down the probe after he released the guard, but the judiciary reopened the case after Blaise Compaore was impeached.
An independent investigation commissioned by the subsequent government concluded that the murder was linked to the professional activities of the journalist who had a track record of exposing irregularities in the Compaore regime.
Six suspects, all members of the presidential guard, were identified by the independent investigators and three were charged.
‘Dignity, honor and responsibility’
Burkina Faso’s judiciary suspects Francois Compaore ordered the attack, although he has not been charged with any crime so far.
French police arrested him at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris in October 2017 following an international arrest warrant issued by his country’s government. In 2020, Burkina Faso signed a deal with France for his extradition.
Compaore’s lawyers said Friday that their client was ready to face his country’s judiciary “with dignity, honor and responsibility”.
But they added in a statement to AFP that he believed the extradition was politically motivated and that the Council had failed to consider the risk of torture, inhumane treatment and unfair trial that awaited him.
“He would certainly be exposed to such risks if he were transferred to Burkina Faso,” they said.
Compaore has appealed to the European Court of Human Rights in hopes of stopping the extradition, they said.