- The former jihadist Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi on Monday at the start of his trial before the International Criminal Court repented about the destruction of mausoleums and a mosque in 2012 in the Malian city of Timbuktu. The tombstones of medieval saints were on the UNESCO World Heritage list, but were considered idolatry by the extremists.
,, I regret my action and ask for forgiveness, 'said the former rebel leader before the court in The Hague.
Mahdi was a member of the extremist militia Ansar Dine, which aims to introduce Sharia law in Mali. He would have been at the head of the morality police of the movement, which Islamic law in 2012 and 2013 forced upon Timbuktu. He would also have been involved in the decisions and implementation of the Islamic court in the city.
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Mahdi has already admitted in March that he was involved in the destruction. The ICC expects to have only a week needed for the hearings. It is the first trial for the destruction of cultural treasures, a war crime under international criminal law. The ruling follows a certain date not yet.
Mahdi can get thirty years in prison. The plaintiffs are likely to require a lower sentence because Mahdi cooperates. He said the courts do not know for sure how old he is, but estimated that he was around 45.
Prosecutor Fatima Bensouda compared the destruction in Timbuktu with the devastation wreaked terror group Islamic State in the Syrian city of Palmyra and blowing up the Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan by the Taliban.
Human rights activists are pleased with the process, but are sorry that Mahdi is not prosecuted for sexual and other crimes against the civilian population.