Chad lawyers to stop work over mass trial of protesters

Injured protestors at the Union de Chagoua Hospital in N’Djamena following the October 20 clashes /AFP

Lawyers in Chad have vowed to stop work during a mass trial, due to start Tuesday, of more than 400 people detained over deadly anti-government protests.

Officially, around 50 people -- including 10 members of the security forces -- died when police opened fire on demonstrators in the capital N'Djamena and several other cities on October 20.

But opposition groups say the actual toll was much higher, with unarmed civilians massacred.

The trial of the 401 detainees is set to run until December 4 inside the high-security prison of Koro Toro in the middle of the desert, more than 600 kilometres (370 miles) northeast of the capital.

Prosecutors say the accused face several charges including taking part in an unauthorised gathering, destroying belongings, arson and disturbing public order.

According to the public prosecutor, 621 people were arrested in N'Djamena after the protests, all of whom were transferred to Koro Toro.

Investigations are ongoing for the 220 other people, including 83 minors, it said.

The Chad Bar Association in a statement lashed the trial as "parody of justice."

The detainees had been "kidnapped" and "deported" to Koro Toro in the absence of  any lawyers, it said.

The trial in the remote prison "violates procedural regulations," it said.

Members of the association "have decided to stop all activity" for the duration of the trial, it said.

Opposition groups had encouraged protests on October 20 to mark the date when the ruling military had initially promised to cede power -- a timeline General Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno has now extended by two years.

The 38-year-old general accused the demonstrators of "insurrection" and attempting to stage a coup.

He took power when his father, Idriss Deby Itno, who ruled for 30 years, died during an operation against rebels in April 2021.

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