Detained Mali soldiers start hunger strike

BAMAKO (REUTERS) - Thirty-two Malian soldiers have started a hunger strike in protest over the failure of the authorities to charge them since their arrest last November at the house of an ex-junta leader, their lawyer said on Tuesday.

The soldiers were detained on Nov 27 at the house of General Amadou Sanogo but they have yet to appear before a judge or to be formally indicted, their lawyer Tiessolo Konare said.

Sanogo led a coup in March 2012 that plunged Mali into chaos. He was arrested at the same time as the men, Mr Konare said.

"The hunger strike started yesterday and they have all stopped eating. It's an indefinite strike because they would rather die of hunger than die of shame," Mr Konare told Reuters.

"They are heads of families arrested without prior notification and detained at the gendarmerie like beasts."

A government source confirmed the hunger strike but said no action would be taken over it. The men were detained by military police in accordance with procedure, the source said.

Sanogo has been charged with complicity in kidnapping, in a sign that Mali's new leaders are stamping their authority on the military.

The discovery in December of a mass grave believed to contain bodies of soldiers missing since 2012 could lead Mali's prosecutor to add murder charges against Sanogo.

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