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Two men accused of leading Christian-dominated militias in widespread attacks on Muslims in the Central African Republic, CAR, have pleaded not guilty at the start of their trial at the International Criminal Court, ICC, in The Hague.
Patrice-Edouard Ngaissona, a 53-year-old former top African football executive, and his co-accused, Alfred Yekatom, nicknamed Rambo, both wore blue disposable masks for their appearances.
The hearing is being conducted in a socially distanced courtroom with most of the lawyers wearing face-coverings, while the three judges are separated by transparent screens.
A summary of the charges were read out in court, among them, directing attacks against civilians, killing between five and 13 Muslims at a market, murdering a deputy mayor, displacement, dislocation of Muslims from towns, villages and neighbourhoods in part of the capital Bangui, attacks against buildings dedicated to religion (in this case mosques) and torture.
Alfred Yekatom is additionally charged with conscripting or enlisting children to take part in the fighting or fulfil other roles, like patrolling checkpoints.
On 5 February, the CAR government extended a state of emergency for six months due to the ongoing conflict.