Eleven handed life sentences over Guinea Ebola worker murders

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CONAKRY – A court Guinea has sentenced 11 people to life in prison for murdering a team educating locals about the risks of Ebola in a remote part of the West African country last year, a prosecutor said on Wednesday.

The bodies of eight people were discovered in September in Womey, a village near the city of Nzerekore around 1,000 km (620 miles) southeast of the capital Conakry.

Some had been hacked to death with machetes or had their throats slit before their bodies were thrown into latrines, witnesses at the trial in Nzerekore said.

“There were 26 defendants. Among them, a group consisting of 11 was sentenced to life in prison,” said prosecutor William Fernandez, who had requested the death penalty for charges including murder and conspiracy.

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The other 15 defendants were found innocent and released.

The victims, who had come by a stone-throwing mob in Womey before their murder, included local administrators, two medical , a pastor and three journalists.

Since the Ebola virus first appeared in the forests of Guinea over a year ago, it has killed more than 10,000 people in Guinea and neighbouring Sierra and in the worst epidemic of the disease on record.

Authorities have struggled to overcome widespread distrust, misinformation and stigma among residents, in isolated areas, which have complicated efforts to contain the highly contagious disease.