Central African Republic Seleka militia leader pleads not guilty at ICC

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A suspected senior member of the “Seleka” militia groups in the Central African Republic, Mahamat Said Abdel Kani, on Monday pleaded not guilty to charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the opening of his trial before the International Criminal Court.

“I plead not guilty to all charges and all situations,” Said dressed in a dark grey suit, told the judges.

The “Seleka” militia groups seized power in 2013-2014 as part of the Central African Republic’s long-running civil war, ousting then-President Francois Bozize.

According to prosecutors, Said oversaw a Seleka-run prison in Bangui where alleged Bozize supporters were beaten and tortured.

The Central African Republic has been mired in violence since a coalition of mostly northern and predominantly Muslim rebels known as “Seleka”, or “alliance” in the Sango language, seized power in March 2013. Their brutal rule gave rise to the opposing anti-Balaka Christian militias.