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Burkina Faso’s former President Blaise Compaore, the main defendant in a long-awaited trial on the 1987 assassination of his predecessor Thomas Sankara, will boycott the upcoming proceedings, according to his lawyers.

In the trial opening on Monday, Compaore and 13 others face an array of charges in the death of Sankara, a charismatic revolutionary followers describe as the African Che Guevara. Sankara took power in the Sahel state in 1983, renaming the country the following year from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso, which means “land of the honest men”.

He enacted a string of sweeping economic and social policies, including nationalisations, public housing and a ban on female genital mutilation, polygamy and forced marriages. But he was killed on October 15, 1987, aged 37, during a putsch led by Compaore, a former friend.

In 2015, authorities exhumed what are thought to be Sankara’s remains from a grave in Dagnoen, on the outskirts of Ouagadougou. Sankara’s widow said an autopsy revealed his body was “riddled with more than a dozen bullets”.

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