THE HAGUE (Reuters) - A former Central African Republic “Seleka” faction commander suspected of war crimes intends to contest allegations brought at the International Criminal Court, his lawyer said on Friday.
Mahamat Said Abdel Kain, who was detained and transferred to The Hague last week, faces accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in 2013.
The Central African Republic has been mired in violence since a coalition of mostly northern and predominantly Muslim rebels known as Seleka, or “alliance” in the Sango language, seized power in March 2013. Their brutal rule gave rise to the opposing “anti-balaka” Christian militias, several of whose former leaders also face charges at the ICC.
The arrest comes against the backdrop of fighting between the Central African Republic's army, backed by U.N., Russian and Rwandan troops, and rebels from both militia groups who have now formed an alliance with the aim of seizing the capital and overturning a Dec. 27 vote in which President Faustin-Archange Touadera was declared the winner.
Defense lawyer Jean Pierre Madoukou told judges at his client's first court appearance that Said intends to prove his innocence in court.
"I can say clearly that (the) truth will come out in favour of mister Said based on everything we have at our disposal," Madoukou said.
Said, speaking via video-link from the ICC detention centre due to COVID-19 restrictions, did not comment on the accusations against him.
"I will be silent for now and I will express myself when the time comes," Said, told the presiding judge.
(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; additional reporting by Bate Felix in Dakar; editing by Anthony Deutsch and Philippa Fletcher)