A court in France has begun the trial of a French soldier accused of sexually molesting two Burkinabe girls while serving in the West African country in 2015.
The 40-year-old serviceman, whose name is given as Sebastien L., appeared before a criminal court in Paris on Tuesday, according to the BBC.
Prosecutors say he filmed himself touching the minors in a hotel pool in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou.
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Sebastien had gotten access to the girls — then aged 3 and 5 — after befriending a French woman who had taken the girls swimming.
A special forces operative, Sebastien was part of the Barkhane anti-terrorism operation set up by the French in 2014 to stem a rising wave of Islamist militancy in five of its former colonies in the Sahel, including Mali, Chad, Mauritania, and Burkina Faso.
Prosecutors say Sebastien had initially denied the charges but later admitted to inappropriate conduct when he was confronted with damning evidence.
The Mother of the girls had discovered the footage of Sebastien’s acts in a portable GoPro camera that Sebastien had forgotten behind.
The incident was brought to the attention of French consular officials, and Sebastien was flown out of Burkina Faso to stand trial in France prompting criticism from many Burkinabes.
The Father of one the girls, Ben Ouedraogo, who holds both French and Burkinabe citizenship, has demanded for the trial to be held in Burkina Faso.
“This means that as long as you’re a French soldier abroad, you can [do] anything you want. Why are we not trying him here?” Ouedraogo told reporters in 2015.
“What happened is horrible.
“It’s like something out of a film … But there’s a point when I have to stand up and fight for these children, for my daughter, to keep their honor because it’s disgusting, disgusting,” he told the AFP.”
In 2015, it emerged that some members of the French peacekeeping forces deployed to the Central African Republic had sexually exploited and abused vulnerable young boys who were homeless and starving.
A subsequent trial of the soldiers in a French court, however, saw the case dropped for lack of evidence.