A court in Tanzania has sentenced 11 people to death over the 2017 murder of renowned anti-poaching activist Wayne Lotter.
Conservationist Lotter, a 51-year-old South African based in Tanzania, was a founder of the PAMS Foundation which worked to stop the poaching of elephants and trafficking of ivory in the East African country.
He was shot dead in Dar es Salaam when the taxi he was travelling in was ambushed.
The exact motive for his killing is still unknown but colleagues of Lotter believe he was singled out for his work on protecting elephants.
Those sentenced to death on Friday include nine Tanzanians and two citizens of neighbouring Burundi.
Judge Leila Mgonya of the High Court said there was compelling evidence that linked the 11 to the two counts on which they were charged: conspiracy to commit murder and murder.
“Some of the suspects, in their statements recorded by police officers, confessed to have taken part in the conspiracy meetings and in killing,” the judge, Laila Mgonya, told the court.
“The evidence provided was strong enough to convict them.”
The handing down of death sentences is not uncommon in Tanzania but they are generally commuted to life in prison.
The last execution carried out in the country was in 1994.
Tanzania has been one of the African countries worst hit by elephant poaching, losing more than 66,000 elephants in 10 years, but interdiction efforts mean poaching has declined in recent years.
A report by the NGO Global Witness found that worldwide, 200 environmentalists had been killed in 2021 and more than 1,700 in the last 10 years.
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