Seven prisoners of conscience were unfairly tried and imprisoned. Dozens of students and opposition party supporters, including prisoners of conscience and possible prisoners of conscience, were arrested. At least five people were sentenced to death. No executions were reported.

In October former President Moussa Traoré, his wife, Mariam, and three of his close associates were tried by the Assize Court on charges of embezzlement and other economic crimes. The trial was continuing at the end of the year.

Seven prisoners of conscience were sentenced to prison terms of 15 to 18 months in March. The seven – Mady Kamakoye Diallo, a minister in the government of former President Moussa Traoré and one of the leaders of the Mouvement patriotique pour le renouveau, Patriotic Movement for Renewal, and six soldiers, most of whom were members of a movement seeking to improve soldiers' living conditions – had been arrested in October and December 1996 (see previous Amnesty International Reports). Their trial before the Bamako Assize Court was grossly unfair. The only evidence produced against them consisted of statements apparently extracted under torture. Mady Diallo was reportedly deprived of sleep and threats were made against members of his family. Other defendants alleged in court that they had been regularly humiliated, beaten and tortured to force them to sign statements while in police custody. Despite the fact that some of the defendants bore visible injuries consistent with the allegations of torture, the court admitted the statements as evidence and made no effort to investigate the torture allegations. The seven defendants had been held in illegally prolonged incommunicado detention (garde à vue) and had had their access to families, lawyers and doctors restricted. An appeal with the Court of Cassation was pending at the end of the year.

Dozens of people, including opposition party supporters, students and a journalist, were arrested in Bamako, the capital, and in Ségou. Among them were prisoners of conscience Mrs Raiss, Tiemoko Sissoko and Chouaïdou Traoré, the publishing director of a privately owned newspaper, who were released without charge after a few days.

Several possible prisoners of conscience were sentenced to prison terms. In June, 83-year-old Madani Keita and 71-year-old Cheickna Camara were arrested following a demonstration organized by the opposition in Ségou. They were convicted on charges including obstructing a public highway and sentenced to one month's imprisonment by the Ségou tribunal.

Scores of students were arrested in Bamako and Ségou following protests in June and July. Most were released without charge, but 10, most of whom were leading members of the Association des étudiants et élèves du Mali, Association of Malian Students, were tried before the Bamako Assize Court on charges including arson, obstructing a public highway and manslaughter. At the trial witnesses for the prosecution stated that the students had not been present at the scene of the fire which destroyed school buildings and resulted in one death. One student was acquitted, but nine others, including possible prisoners of conscience, were sentenced to between three months' imprisonment and five years' hard labour.

Opposition supporters, including Adama Kouyate, Dacry Sine Sissoko, and Seydou Coulibaly, were arrested in June and remained in detention without charge or trial at the end of the year.

No independent or impartial investigations were known to have been initiated into allegations of torture made in 1997 (see Amnesty International Report 1998).

At least five people were sentenced to death. In February Bourama Konaté was convicted of murder and sentenced to death by the Assize Court. Four other people – Moussa Coulibaly, Emmanuel Johnson, Ibrahim Konte and Afousseyni Camara – were sentenced to death in October for offences including murder and armed robbery. No executions were reported. President Konaré stated that he was opposed to the death penalty and that all death sentences passed in previous years had been commuted to life imprisonment.

Amnesty International delegates visited Mali in March to attend the trial of Mady Diallo and the six soldiers, and to investigate allegations of torture. In October Amnesty International published a report, Mali: An unfair trial and torture with impunity compromise the establishment of the rule of law, which detailed the failure of the trial to comply with international standards of fair trial and the failure of the authorities to bring to justice those responsible for torture and ill-treatment in police stations throughout the country.

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