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Africa

Chad rebel leader faces charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes in Paris

media General Mahamat Nouri, president of the UFDD rebel group, 7 October 2007. RFI/Laurent Correau

Two opponents of Chadian President Idriss Deby have gone before the Paris public prosecutor, four days after they were arrested for alleged crimes against humanity and links to child soldier operations in Chad and Sudan, according to the office of the prosecutor.

General Mahamat Nouri and opposition leader Abakar Tollimi are "suspected of having engaged in the forced recruitment of combatants, including minors," between December 2005 and July 2010 in Chad and Darfur, Sudan, according to the prosecutor.

Nouri, an influential rebel leader against the Deby regime, was arrested on Monday at his home just outside of Paris, while two other suspects, Abakar Tollimi and Abderahmane Khalifa Abdelkerim, were also arrested in France. Abdelkarim was later released on Wednesday night without charge.

Investigators from the Central Office for Combating Crimes Against Humanity, Genocide and War Crimes opened a case on the men in 2017, and arrested them on the grounds of universal jurisdiction that Paris can prosecute suspects if they are on French territory.

In January 2017, investigators in Paris froze Nouri’s assets for six months, as well as those of Mahamat Mahadi Ali, another Chadian rebel.

When Nouri was arrested, the Chadian association Convention for the Defense of Human Rights said it was "deeply shocked by the wave of unjustified and arbitrary arrests made by the French authorities of opposition members in exile”.

Nouri: from government official to rebel

Nouri is a crony of Chadian dictator Hissène Habré, who was overthrown in 1990 by now-President Idriss Deby. Although he continued in the Deby government, first as Minister of Defence from 2001 to 2003 and then ambassador to Saudi Arabia, he became a rebel in 2006.

He moved to Sudan with his rebel group the UFDD (Union of Forces for democracy and development), and struck against the government with other rebel groups in eastern Chad in November 2006, before being pushed back into Sudan by the Chadian army.

Active as the commander in the National Alliance (NA), Nouri pushed from Darfur all the way to N’Djamena in February 2008, fighting the Chadian army who had French tactical help before being defeated.

He was sentenced to death in Chad later that year, and then expelled from Sudan before eventually settling in France.

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