Chad sentences 441 rebels to life in prison over ex-president Deby's death

FILE PHOTO: Members of the security forces patrol Chad's capital N'Djamena following the battlefield death of President Idriss Deby in N'Djamena
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N'DJAMENA (Reuters) - A court in Chad sentenced more than 400 rebels to life in prison on Tuesday over the death of former president Idriss Deby, who was killed on the frontline of a battle against their group in 2021, their lawyer said.

The trial of 465 members of the Libyan-based Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) rebel group started on Feb. 13 in the capital N'Djamena.

The criminal chamber of N'Djamena's court of appeal on Tuesday found 441 defendants guilty of acts of terrorism, undermining national security and endangering the life of the head of state among other charges. FACT leader Mahamat Mahadi was among them.

They were sentenced to life in prison and will have to pay compensation to the state, their lawyer Francis Djokoulde said.

The rest were acquitted due to lack of evidence, he said, adding that his team would appeal before the Supreme Court.

FACT spokesperson Adoum Chouwimi said the trial was flawed and called the verdict a "mascarade".

"The struggle for which we have had to resort to arms will continue," Chouwimi said.

Deby, 68, was shot while visiting troops on the frontline against FACT rebels who had moved south from Chad's northern border with Libya and were advancing towards the capital.

He had been president of the vast central African country since 1990, surviving numerous coup attempts and rebellions as one of Africa's longest-serving leaders.

His son, Mahamat Idriss Deby, was named interim president by a transitional council of military officers after Deby's death. He is set to stay in power until elections scheduled to take place around October 2024.

(Reporting by Mahamat Ramadane; Additional reporting by Edward McAllister in Dakar; Writing by Sofia Christensen; editing by Grant McCool)