The leader of Mali’s 2012 coup, General Amadou Sanogo, could face the death penalty after a new charge was laid against him following the discovery of the bodies of soldiers who opposed his rise to power, officials have said.
The new charge of assassination conspiracy follows the unearthing of a mass grave of loyalist soldiers.
So far, 30 bodies have been dug from mass graves around the former military government headquarters in Kati, about 20km north of the capital Bamako.
Sanogo was arrested and charged with complicity in kidnapping in November over the disappearance during the 2012 coup of dozens of paratroopers loyal to toppled President Amadou Toumani Toure.
A close aide to investigating judge Yaya Karembe, who placed Sanogo in custody in late 2013, confirmed that the new charge, which carries a possible death sentence, was related to the discovery of the mass grave.
"Now he is charged with complicity to commit murder," Harouna Toureh told Reuters, noting that the charge carried the death penalty if found guilty.
|Sanogo's case is a push by President Keita to assert civilian control over an army accused of gross human rights violations. [Reuters]
A justice official said Sanogo was informed that only the assassination charge, which carries the death penalty, was being pursued.
The general's coup toppled what had been heralded as one of the region's most stable democracies and precipitated the fall of northern Mali to Al Qaeda-linked groups until a French-led military operation forced them out.
In the months after the coup and a failed counter-coup in April 2012, Sanogo's then-headquarters in Kati were the scene of abuses and killings carried out against soldiers seen as loyal to Toure.
Politicians, journalists and civil society leaders were also victims of the army's brutality.
The case against Sanogo and other soldiers is part of a push by President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to assert civilian control over the Malian army, which is accused by human rights groups of excessive violence and torture during the period.