CONAKRY, Guinea — Authorities have charged a Guinean army colonel in connection with a 2009 massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators at a soccer stadium, making him the first high-ranking official to face trial for the atrocities.
Human rights groups on Thursday applauded the decision to indict Col. Moussa Tiegboro Camara, who has appeared before investigative judges but is not in police custody.
Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher for Human Rights Watch, called the charges "an encouraging and meaningful step forward for justice in Guinea."
"Ensuring justice for the 2009 victims and their families would help break the cycle of violence, fear, and impunity that has blighted the lives and hopes of so many Guineans for so many years," she said.
The colonel said told a private radio station that he was not "responsible for these accusations."
Thousands of protesters had gathered at the soccer stadium in September 2009 to protest the country's then-military ruler when presidential forces opened fire on a crowd. At least 157 people were killed and scores of women were brutally raped.
Witnesses said Moussa Tiegboro Camara was at the stadium during the killings, and a U.N. panel has accused him of being one of the main actors behind the massacre. Guinea's government has faced criticism for allow him to serve as the director of a government office tasked with fighting drug trafficking and serious crime.
Justice Ministry spokesman Ibrahima Beavogui confirmed that Camara has been charged but offered few other details.
Survivors of the massacre applauded the decision to charge Camara but noted that hundreds were responsible for carrying out the killings and rapes.
"Tiegboro's arrest can't give me back my virginity or forget the atrocities that we raped women suffered," one survivor told The Associated Press.
The head of the junta accused of ordering the massacre was forced into exile and his No. 2 agreed to hand over power to civilians. Guinea went on to hold what was considered to be the first free vote in 2010, but the election was tainted by the ethnic divide that was exposed.
President Alpha Conde narrowly survived an assassination attempt last year after gunmen surrounded his home and pounded his bedroom with rockets.