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Court Suspends ex-Chad Dictator's Trial to Ready New Lawyers

The long-awaited trial of former Chadian leader Hissein Habre opened in the Senegalese capital Dakar, July 20, 2015. (VOA / M. Diallo)

The trial of Chad's ex-dictator Hissene Habre was suspended on Tuesday until September to allow court-appointed lawyers to prepare his defense.

The Extraordinary African Chambers, established by Senegal and the African Union, is trying the former leader of Chad for crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture, in an unprecedented case of one African country prosecuting the former ruler of another.

Habre on Tuesday refused representation but Attorney General Mbacke Fall said Habre must accept lawyers appointed by the judge, since he refused to be represented by his own.

Three Senegalese lawyers were appointed by the court to represent Habre and they were given until Sept. 7 to prepare the defense.

"The appointed lawyers have a duty to defend Habre. Even if the accused refuses to collaborate with the appointed lawyers for him, the procedure will continue,'' said Judge Gberdao Gustave Kam.

Habre has said he does not recognize the special tribunal, dismissing it as politically motivated. On Monday, Habre was taken away from court by security guards after he and a supporter yelled out, causing chaos. He then refused to return, submitting a statement saying he had been illegally detained.

Habre's government was responsible for an estimated 40,000 deaths, according to a report published in May 1992 by a 10-member truth commission formed by Chad's current President Idriss Deby. The commission singled out Habre's political police force for using torture.

In 1990 Habre was overthrown and fled to Senegal, where he was eventually brought into custody and charged in 2013.

Habre risks 30 years in jail if found guilty by the court, which was set up to try the ex-leader for the crimes during his rule from 1982-1990.