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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 November 2005, 02:23 GMT
Chad ex-president freed by court
Hissene Habre waves as he gets in a car surrounded by prison guards in Senegal on 17 November 2005
Hissene Habre denies murder and torture accusations
The former President of Chad, Hissene Habre, has been released from detention in Senegal, his lawyers say.

The move came after an appeal court ruled it did not have the power to decide whether to extradite him to Belgium to face a trial.

Belgium wants to try him on charges of mass murder and torture during his presidency from 1982 to 1990.

Mr Habre - who fled to Senegal after he was ousted, and was arrested last week - denies knowledge of such atrocities.

'Africa's Pinochet'

"Hissene Habre must be judged as a head of state and must benefit from privilege," a ruling read out by Judge Lamine Coulibaly said.

Mr Habre, 63, whose administration has been accused of 40,000 political killings and 200,000 cases of torture, reportedly returned to his home in Senegal's seaside capital, Dakar, after the court ruling.

The New York-based group Human Rights Watch, which has led attempts to arrest Mr Habre, calling him "Africa's Pinochet", expressed disappointment at the Senegalese appeal court's verdict.

But Reed Brody from HRW, who has long campaigned for Mr Habre to be brought to trial, insisted: "The extradition case is still alive."

And Belgian lawyer Georges-Henri Beauthier told Reuters news agency: "We're looking at the ruling and, contrary to what you might expect, the door is still open."

Activists said Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade could still decide to send Mr Habre abroad for trial.

Previous failure

Efforts to prosecute Mr Habre in 2001 in Senegal failed after the country's highest court ruled he could not be tried there, as his alleged crimes were committed outside the country.

However, this time Mr Habre's alleged victims filed complaints under Belgium's universal jurisdiction law, which allows Brussels judges to prosecute human rights offences anywhere.

Mr Habre's lawyers have argued that Belgium could not use a common law procedure to extradite their client.


SEE ALSO:
Amnesty urges Habre extradition
26 Nov 05 |  Africa
Country profile: Chad
04 May 05 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Chad
16 Apr 05 |  Country profiles


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