Spanish judge puts Boko Haram on trial

Boko Haram and its militant leader Abubakar Shekau are to be put on trial in a Spanish court for crimes against humanity and terrorism.

The Nigerian Islamist group is being prosecuted for allegedly abusing and harassing a Spanish nun in 2013. The nun managed to escape and will appear in court for questioning.

Spanish news site The Local reported that Spanish High Court judge, Fernando Andreu, ruled that Shekau and his group would be tried under the principle of universal jurisdiction.

In their quest to establish an Islamic caliphate in northern Nigeria, Boko Haram have already killed some 2,000 people this year. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the group was responsible for more than 10,000 deaths in 2014, making it the deadliest year of a six-year insurgency against the Nigerian government.

As he was sworn in today as the new Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari described Boko Haram as a "mindless, godless group, who are as far away from Islam as one can think" and promised to set up a new military command centre in Maiduguri, the capital of the group's stronghold of Borno state.

In their lawsuit, Spanish public prosecutors described how Shekau and his group had been responsible for the deaths of many women and children and that they "must answer for their acts before the courts".

According to Spanish newspaper El Mundo, the lawsuit relates specifically to a March 2013 attack by Boko Haram on the remote town of Ganye, which lies close to Nigeria's eastern border with Cameroon. The Spanish nun, Maria Jesus Mayor Garcia, managed to escape the attack.

The BBC reported at the time that at least 25 people died during the violence and that Boko Haram were the prime suspects.

The judge has asked Interpol the European police service, to prepare a report on Boko Haram as part of the proceedings.

Andreu has previously been involved in similar high profile cases. In 2009, Andreu opened preliminary proceedings into alleged crimes against humanity by top Israeli military officials, including former defence minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, in connection with a 2002 airstrike on Gaza. The strike killed 14 civilians as well as Salah Shehadeh, a suspected leader of the Hamas military movement.

In 2008, the judge issued international arrest warrants for 40 Rwandan soldiers in connection with mass murders following the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The victims included nine Spanish citizens.

Despite numerous claims by the Nigerian military that he had been killed, Shekau still appears to be leading Boko Haram. He was last heard from in March when, in an audio statement, he pledged allegiance to Isis on behalf of Boko Haram.

A Nigerian government official recently told Newsweek that the military was in the "final stages" of an offensive against the jihadists as they pressed in to the group's heartland in the Sambisa forest. However, they are yet to locate the group's elusive leader.