OUAGADOUGOU - A general denied leading a deadly 2015 coup attempt in the West African state of Burkina Faso, in his first trial testimony on Monday.
"I neither ordered, nor planned, nor organized, nor executed what some people are calling a coup d’état on September 16, 2015," Gilbert Diendere told a military court in the capital Ouagadougou.
"I just faced up to a given situation on the advice of mediators and by agreement with the military hierarchy," said Diendere, who appeared in the packed courtroom in a red beret and military fatigues.
Diendere is the former head of the elite Presidential Security Regiment (RSP) that guarded President Blaise Compaore, who was ousted in a popular uprising in 2014.
Compaore ruled the former French colony for 27 years after himself coming to power after a military coup.
The trial opened in February over the coup bid staged by Diendere's elite unit against the interim leadership that took over after Compaore was driven from power.
The violence left 14 people dead and 270 injured.
Diendere is charged with treason, murder and threatening state security.
During the coup attempt, Diendere took the helm of a junta dubbed the National Council for Democracy before stepping down under pressure from the regular army as well as public opinion.
Diendere is among 84 defendants in the trial including another general and suspected ringleader, Djibrill Bassole, who served as foreign minister under Compaore.
Diendere testified Monday that on the day of the attempted coup, former RSP guards burst into a cabinet meeting and arrested the interim president, the prime minister and two ministers, then sequestered them in the presidential palace.
"In the face of this situation, a meeting was set up between the military leadership and the mediators -- former president Jean-Baptiste Ouedraogo and Cardinal Paul Ouedraogo," he said.
Those two sides then wanted to meet with the RSP "to resolve the crisis", Diendere said.
"The armed forces chief of staff said... it was up to those who had launched the movement to do so," he said. "I found myself under an obligation to step forward even without having been behind" the movement, he testified.
Co-defendants point finger
Co-defendant Boureima Kere, a colonel who was chief of staff under transitional president Michel Kafando at the time of the coup, testified against Diendere on November 12 and accused army chiefs of passivity.
"Even if the army was not behind the coup d’état it backed General Diendere's movement," he told the court.
Kere said Diendere had warned military brass that they would be "considered enemies and treated as such" if they opposed the coup.
Two other co-defendants had testified against Diendere in July.
Eloi Badiel, considered the operational chief of the failed coup, told the court he had acted under the "indirect" orders of Diendere, who he said wanted the arrest of the transitional authorities.
Jean-Florent Nion, a member of the commando unit that arrested transition authorities, testified that Diendere called the shots in the attempted putsch.