Chad jails more than 260 people after mass trial over protests

A total of 401 people were tried at Koro Toro Prison for anti-government protests that took place in October.

A court in Chad has handed down sentences of two to three years to more than 260 people arrested following anti-government protests in October, while defense lawyers have argued the trial was “illegal”.

Last week, a total of 401 people were mass tried in the Koro Toro prison, a maximum security prison in the desert 600 km from the capital N’Djamena.

At a press conference on Monday, prosecutor Moussa Wade Djibrine said 262 people received prison sentences, 80 were suspended and 59 were acquitted, the AFP news agency reported.

The trial ended on Friday after four days, with only state television having the right to report, and the verdicts were announced on Monday after the prosecutor returned to the capital.

The suspects were charged with participating in an unauthorized meeting, destroying property, arson and disturbing public order.

About 50 people, including 10 members of the security forces, were killed when police opened fire on protesters in N’Djamena and several other towns on Oct. 20, according to an official toll.

But opposition groups say the real number was much higher, claiming unarmed civilians were victims of mass killings.

Local and international NGOs, the European Union and the African Union condemned the bloody crackdown and the use of violence against civilians.

Chadian lawyers are boycotting the proceedings on the grounds of the “illegal” transfer, far from public interest in the process. Many stopped working during and after the trial, with the Chad Bar Association calling it a “parody of justice” as the defendants were “kidnapped” and “deported” to Koro Toro, AFP reported.

The bar said it would appeal the court’s decision.

The protests had been called to mark the date Chad’s ruling army had initially pledged to relinquish power — a timeline that has now been extended by two years.

Strong General Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno accused the protesters of “insurgency” and attempted coup.

Deby, aged 38, took power when his father, Idriss Deby Itno, who had ruled the arid Sahel state for 30 years, died during an anti-rebel operation in April 2021.

Authorities had previously said that in the N’Djamena region alone, 601 people, including 83 minors, were arrested and taken to Koro Toro.

About 80 minors detained there have been returned to N’Djamena, where they will remain in a prison before appearing before a special juvenile court, the prosecutor said on Monday, according to AFP.

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Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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