Judges Want to Start Trial of Malian Islamic Rebel Leader in Mid-June

Judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) have said they are inclined to begin in mid-June the trial of Malian Islamic rebel leader Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi, whose single war crime charge was confirmed about two months ago.

Judge Raul C. Pangalangan, the single judge of Trial Chamber VIII, said this in an order  scheduling a status conference for Tuesday next week . The May 24 status conference is the first one Trial Chamber VIII will be holding since it was formed to handle al Faqi’s trial.

Al Faqi’s trial is taking place after Pre-Trial Chamber I confirmed on March 24 a single war crimes charge against him for completely or partially destroying historic buildings in the northern Mali city of Timbuktu.

He is charged with committing the offenses between June 30 and July 11, 2012 as the leader of a morality brigade in Timbuktu called Hisbah, and also as a local leader of the extremist Islamic groups, Ansar Eddine and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb, when they were in charge of Timbuktu.

In his May 6 order scheduling the status conference, Judge Pangalangan said Trial Chamber VIII will want to hear submissions on three issues. These include the trial date, and whether the chamber should pronounce judgement, and determine sentencing, at the same time, if the chamber decides to uphold the guilty plea al Faqi may make.

During the confirmation of charges hearings, al Faqi told Pre-Trial Chamber I he intended to plead guilty when his case went to trial. Al Faqi said he had made this decision after consulting his lawyers and reviewing the evidence disclosed to him at the pre-trial stage.

Judge Pangalangan also said the chamber wanted to know if any of the parties intend to present witnesses or evidence at the sentencing stage. The judge said the parties had until this Thursday, May 19, to make their written submissions.

Trial Chamber VIII was formed on May 2 by the ICC’s Presidency. Judges Raul C. Pangalangan, Antoine Kesia-Mbe Mindua and Bertram Schmitt make up the chamber. On May 4, the judges elected Pangalangan as both the presiding judge and the single judge. The person designated as the single judge of a chamber handles most procedural matters brought to the chamber.

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