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Senegal to extradite ex-Chadian dictator Habre to face trial after 20 years
DAKAR, Senegal (AP) ' Senegal is extraditing former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre back home next week to face trial two decades after the ex-ruler accused of torturing opponents was ousted from power, a Chadian minister said late Friday.
It was a puzzling turn of events as Senegal had said years ago it would set up a special court to try Habre. Victims who suffered under his regime have been working for decades to bring him to justice.
Abderaman Djasnabaille, the Chadian minister of human rights, told The Associated Press by telephone that he was "astonished" by the news.
"We received a correspondence from (Senegalese President Abdoulaye) Wade saying he plans to send Hissene Habre back to us this Monday, July 11," said Djasnabaille. "We were surprised to say the least."
Habre sought refuge in Senegal in 1990 during the same month that he was deposed by current Chadian President Idriss Deby.
Habre was indicted by a Senegalese judge in 2000 on charges of crimes against humanity. Last week, the African Union issued a strong statement urging Senegal to either try him after years of delays or extradite him to a nation willing to do so.
The African Union had in mind sending him to Belgium, which had earlier requested his extradition. However, there was resistance to sending him to Europe because it reinforces the perception that Africans are unwilling to try their own.
"This is a certainly a major development. Hissene Habre's victims have been fighting for 20 years to bring him to justice," said leading Habre expert Reed Brody, a legal counsel for New York-based Human Rights Watch who has worked for more than a decade to try to bring Habre to court.
"But we have always insisted that he be given a fair trial in conditions that respect his rights and his security ' and we are very concerned that those conditions do not exist in Chad today," he said.
Habre already has been sentenced to death in absentia by a Chadian court, making it unlikely that he could face the charges in a neutral courtroom. Brody said the best option would be for Chad to agree to extradite him to Belgium.
In a communique released by the government, Chadian authorities said that they will take all the necessary measures to ensure a fair trial.
"This will be done in coordination with the African Union and with human rights groups so that he receives a fair trial," the communique said.
Associated Press Writer Dany Padire contributed to this report from N'Djamena, Chad.