A Guinean court has filed charges against a top army officer over the killing of scores of protesters and mass rape of women during a 2009 demonstration against military rule, rights groups said.
Colonel Moussa Tiegboro Camara, secretary of state in charge of fighting organised crime, is the highest-level official yet to be charged over the massacre, one of bloodiest events in the West African state's history.
"This is a very important step in the probe into the September 28 massacre," Florent Geel, an official at the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, told Reuters, adding the charges had been filed on Wednesday.
A senior police official confirmed Camara had been charged, but declined further comment.
The move comes amid broad international pressure on President Alpha Conde, elected in 2010, to investigate the crackdown on thousands of people who had gathered in a Conakry stadium to protest against the then-ruling military junta.
More than 150 people were shot, stabbed, bludgeoned or trampled to death, while more than 100 women were raped, according to Human Rights Watch. A U.N.-led probe concluded the abuses likely constituted crimes against humanity.
Camara was seen inside the stadium during the crackdown, according to TV images seen by Reuters. Human Rights Watch said forces commanded by Camara "took an active part in the massacre, and, to a lesser degree, in the sexual violence that followed."
Junta rule in the country ended after elections in 2010 that brought Conde, a veteran opposition figure, to power.
At least two other men have been charged for their alleged roles in the crackdown, including Lieutenant Aboubacar Sidiki Diakite, who was then-head of the Presidential Guard.
"For years, political interference and intimidation has undermined the independence of the judiciary and contributed to the widely held perception that the powerful are above the law," Corinne Dufka, a senior West Africa researcher for Human Rights Watch, said in a press release.
"The efforts by the judges and Ministry of Justice to hold accountable those responsible for the 2009 stadium violence are playing an important role in reversing this trend."