Spain to extradite Belgian diamond trafficking suspect

31st August 2015, Comments 0 comments

A US-Belgian businessman accused of enslavement and trafficking diamonds in Sierra Leone during the west African country's civil war will be extradited to Belgium which sought his arrest, a Spanish court official said Monday.

Spanish police detained Michel Desaedeleer, 64, at Malaga airport in southern Spain, under a European arrest warrant issued by Belgian authorities on Friday, just as he was about to board a flight to the United States.

After hos arrest Desaedeleer, who has both Belgian and US citizenship, agreed to be handed over to Belgian authorities, a spokesman for Spain's National Court said.

Belgium sought his arrest following a complaint filed in Brussels in 2011 by five former diamond mine slaves detailing Desaedeleer's alleged crimes in Sierra Leone's eastern Kono district between 1999 and 2001.

Around 120,000 people died during Sierra Leone's 1991-2002 civil war, partly funded by the trade in illicit gems known as "blood diamonds" which fighters forced civilians to mine.

Former Liberian president Charles Taylor received a 50-year jail sentence in May 2012 for supporting the Revolutionary United Front rebels in neighbouring Sierra Leone during the civil war in exchange for the diamonds.

The rebels were notorious for hacking off the hands and legs of civilians during the war.

"This is the very first time that a businessman has been arrested for his alleged involvement in the international crimes of both pillage of blood diamonds and enslavement of civilians," said Civitas Maxima, a Geneva-based organisation that gives legal advice to victims of war crimes and has helped build a case against Desaedeleer.

The group said Desaedeleer is suspected of having participated with Taylor and the Revolutionary United Front "in enslavement as a crime against humanity and pillage of 'blood diamonds' as a war crime in the district of Kono".

© 2015 AFP

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