Amad al Faqi al Mahdi was jailed last September for nine years after pleading guilty to war crimes for involvement in the destruction of 10 mausoleums and religious sites in Mali.

Ahmad al Faqi al Mahdi, a Malian who pleaded guilty to destruction of historic mausoleums in Timbuktu, enters the court room to hear the verdict of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016.
Ahmad al Faqi al Mahdi, a Malian who pleaded guilty to destruction of historic mausoleums in Timbuktu, enters the court room to hear the verdict of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016. (AP)

Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) ruled on Thursday that a former extremist who was jailed for wrecking holy sites in Timbuktu was liable for damages of 2.7 million euros ($3.2 million).

Amad al Faqi al Mahdi was sent to prison for nine years in 2016 after pleading guilty to war crimes for his involvement in the destruction of 10 mausoleums and religious sites, including the centuries-old door of the Sidi Yahya mosque in Timbuktu. The sites date from Mali's 14th-century golden age as centre of Islamic learning and trading hub.

TRT World’s Simon McGregor-Wood has more.

Mahdi was jailed for nine years in 2016 after he pleaded guilty to directing attacks on the UNESCO world heritage site and apologised to the Timbuktu community.

Timbuktu, founded by Tuareg tribes between the fifth and 12th centuries, has been nicknamed "the city of 333 saints," referring to the number of Muslim sages buried there.

The ICC's decision to jail Mahdi in September's landmark verdict was the first arising out of the conflict in Mali.

(TRT World and Agencies)

Additional reparations

Because Mahdi is in jail and cannot afford to pay the damages, the court has asked the ICC's Trust Fund for Victims to do so. The money will go to the Timbuktu community in the form of educational programmes, economic aid schemes and possibly a memorial.

Judge Raul Pangalangan said action such as the attacks on the shrines "destroys part of humanity's shared memory and collective consciousness, and renders humanity unable to transmit its values and knowledge to future generations."

A man holds a page from an ancient manuscript that will need to be restored after being damaged in Bamako, Mali, Tuesday, January 27, 2015.
A man holds a page from an ancient manuscript that will need to be restored after being damaged in Bamako, Mali, Tuesday, January 27, 2015. (TRT World and Agencies)

The three-strong panel of judges also said that a smaller number of individual reparations would be determined later for people whose livelihoods depended exclusively on the destroyed sites, and for direct descendants of the saints buried in the damaged tombs.

The court also ordered Mahdi to pay the symbolic sum of one euro ($1.13) to Mali and one euro to the international community via UNESCO, which is responsible for World Heritage site cultural listings.

It called the reparations "reasonable" and said the burden of paying would not make it impossible for him to reintegrate into society.

During his trial in August last year, Mahdi asked for forgiveness. He said he had been swept up in the excitement by Al Qaeda and the Ansar Dine groups, and that he was morally confused when he damaged the ancient sites.  

Source: TRTWorld and agencies