Ex-chief of jihadist 'Islamic police' on trial in Mali
The head of an Islamic police brigade deployed by jihadists controlling a city in northern Mali in 2012 went on trial Friday accused of cutting off victims' hands and publicly whipping women.
Aliou Mahamar Toure, the feared former "Islamic police chief" of the city of Gao, appeared in a Bamako court accused of aggravated assault, a crime rights groups said did not reflect the gravity of his offences.
Toure was arrested in December 2013 by the Malian army after spreading terror as one of the most high-profile faces of Al-Qaeda offshoot MUJAO (the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa) in Gao.
Toure took the stand in Bamako wearing a traditional white robe in the presence of at least eight of his victims, an AFP journalist at the court said.
One of them, a driver, said Toure had cut off his hand after suspecting him of stealing.
"Aliou cut my right hand when I had done nothing," the man told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity. "I want the law to come down hard on him."
Rights groups including the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its Malian equivalent said the charge sheet did not mention war crimes or torture, offences they believe Toure committed in the role.
Jihadists hijacked a rebellion led by Tuareg separatists in northern Mali to take over key cities until a French-led intervention removed them in early 2013, though they remain active in the area.
Toure was the most senior Malian among the ranks of jihadists in Gao, where many were foreigners.