Senegal’s criminal court has sentenced 13 people to prison for attempting to establish a homegrown cell modelled after Boko Haram in the West Africa country.
One of those jailed by the Dakar court on Thursday was Makhtar Diokhane, described as the ringleader of the group. He was handed a 20-year prison term.
“The court was very heavy-handed in sentencing our client and we are going to appeal,” Diokane’s lawyer Alassane Cisse told Reuters.
Fourteen people, including two of Diokhane’s wives, were acquitted.
About 30 Senegalese were put on trial in April for their suspected involvement in the cell after some spent time in Nigeria with Boko Haram.
Attacks involving Boko Haram have displaced more than 1.8 million Nigerians in the country’s predominantly agricultural northeast over the last 10 years. An estimated 20,000 people have been killed.
Twenty-nine other suspects, three of them women, were accused of criminal conspiracy related to financing an armed group, money-laundering, and acts of terrorism.
The public prosecutor had requested life sentences for 11 of the accused, and a 30-year prison term for Alioune Ndao – a popular imam from the town of Kaolack in central Senegal – who was accused of acting as a coordinator.
He received a suspended one-month sentence.
Around 200 people came to Senegal’s main courthouse on Thursday to hear the verdict. The audience reportedly cheered and shouted “God is greatest” when some suspects were acquitted.
Recently, Nigeria jailed members of the insurgent group while many Boko Haram members are currently on trial.