The trial of 11 people accused of killing a dozen albinos has opened in Burundi. At least 12 albinos were murdered in the last few months in the tiny central African country, and more than 40 since late 2007 in neighbouring Tanzania.
AFP - The trial of 11 people accused of the ritual killing of a dozen albinos opened in Burundi on Tuesday.
The killings were carried out over a six-month period from September 2008 mainly in the Ruyigi province of the tiny central African country.
Prosecutor Nicodemus Gahimbare told the court that eight of the suspects embarked on a killing and mutilation spree of albinos on September 8 with the murder of a little girl.
Three others are charged with attempted murder. They all pleaded not guilty.
At the latest, a ruling is expected by Wednesday, the prosecutor said.
If convicted, the 11 men, among them a government soldier, face life terms.
Scores of people, among them albinos, packed the courtroom in Ruyigi, situated 200 kilometres east of the capital.
At least 12 albinos were murdered and mutilated in the six months until March this year in Burundi and more than 40 since late 2007 in neighbouring Tanzania.
Police suspect that albino limbs and organs are smuggled across the border into Tanzania and sold to witch doctors who use them to concoct lucky charms.
The Burundian prosecutor said he was hopeful the trial would dismantle the criminal gang which has wreaked terror among his country's albino community, forcing the authorities to gather dozens of them in protected sites.
Albinism is a congenital lack of the melamin pigment in the skin, eyes and hair which protects from the sun's ultraviolets. Albinos are vulnerable to medical complications as well as social discrimination in Africa.
Date created : 2009-05-19