06/19/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Burundi Albino Murder Trial Begins

The trial of 11 people charged with specifically targeting and murdering dozens of Albinos in Burundi, for the purpose of smuggling and selling the body parts for witchcraft in Tanzania, began today with 11 not guilty pleas. According to AFP:

Prosecutor Nicodemus Gahimbare told the court that eight of the suspects embarked on a killing and mutilation spree of albinos on September 8 with the murder of a little girl.

Three others are charged with attempted murder. They all pleaded not guilty. At the latest, a ruling is expected by Wednesday, the prosecutor said. If convicted, the 11 men, among them a government soldier, face life terms.

Albinos in Burundi and Tanzania have long lived with the threat from gangs such as the one on trial, but the governments in those states are now trying to crack down. According to the BBC:

An association campaigning for the rights of albinos in Burundi says the authorities are now taking the killings seriously, but more needs to be done.

At least 200 people have been arrested over the trade in Tanzania, but none has been convicted.

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