Last month, Mahdi pleaded guilty to destroying nine monuments in Timbuktu and the centuries-old door of the historic Sidi Yahia mosque in 2012. Photograph: (AFP)
This is the first verdict to focus solely on cultural destruction as a war crime
The International Criminal Court will today announce its verdict against a Malian Jihadist accused of razing Timbuktu's fabled shrines.
Forty-year-old Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi is the first jihadist to stand trial at the tribunal in The Hague and will be sentenced by a three-judge bench.
Last month, Mahdi pleaded guilty to destroying nine monuments in Timbuktu and the centuries-old door of the historic Sidi Yahia mosque in 2012. This is the first verdict to focus solely on cultural destruction as a war crime.
After videos of him and other Islamist extremists razing mausoleums with bulldozers,Mahdi had apologised to people. The residents of Timbuktu, which has now been restored, say they are ready to forgive him, according to AFP news agency.
El-Boukhari Ben Essayouti, who headed the reconstruction of the monuments with UNESCO assistance, told AFP that Mahdi`s trial was an important lesson.
The trial "has to be useful for something, showing to everyone that in the same way that we cannot kill another person with impunity, we cannot just destroy a world heritage site with impunity either," he said.
As the head of the so-called Hisbah or "Manners Brigade," Mahdi, a former Islamic scholar gave the orders to ransack the sites. Apologising for his actions at the court, he said he had been overtaken by "evil spirits", urging Muslims not to follow his example, and saying he wanted to seek the pardon of all Malians, AFP reported.
According to AFP, Prosecutors have asked for a jail term of upto 11 years. "The verdict is eagerly awaited," Lassana Cisse, Mali’s national heritage director, was quoted as saying by the international news agency.
He added that it must be a "punishment which sets an example."
(WION with inputs from AFP)