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Congo: Trial of opposition official begins after six months of detention

Congo: Trial of opposition official begins after six months of detention

Republic of the Congo

The trial of Congolese opposition official, Paulin Makaya, who is charged with inciting the disturbance of public order, opened on Monday in the Congolese capital, Brazzaville, six months after his incarceration.

Makaya is the Chairman of the small opposition party, UPC (United for the Congo), and was imprisoned since November 23, 2015.

The Congolese authorities accused Makaya of organizing and participating in an unauthorized demonstration on October 20, 2015 against the constitutional referendum that allowed the head of state Denis Sassou Nguesso to stand in the presidential election of March 20.

I have nothing to reproach myself in terms of law and conscience ... I have committed no crime or offense or contravention.

“I have nothing to reproach myself in terms of law and conscience … I have committed no crime or offense or contravention,” Makaya pleaded.

“The facts for which the accused is charged are extremely serious,” the prosecution said on Monday.

Yvon Eric Ibouanga, Makaya’s lawyer said in late May, the authorities had dropped the other charges including arson on public buildings, illegal possession of weapons and ammunition.

At the hearing, Mr Ibouanga presented a new request for the provisional release of his client, but it was rejected.

The lawyer said the refusal was not legal and according to him, he has the right to bail “automatically” after six months of detention.

The first hearing before the Criminal Chamber of the High Court of Brazzaville took more than three hours and was adjourned to June 27 for closing arguments.

Paulin Makaya is considered a political prisoner by several organizations defending human rights. In February, Amnesty International called for his immediate release. In May, the French branch of ACAT (Christian Action against Torture) had made a similar appeal, saying that Mr. Makaya was “illegally detained”.

An ally of Bernard Kolelas, a former Congolese politician and a prime minister briefly during the civil war of 1997 that brought Sassou Nguesso to power, Paulin Makaya returned to Congo at the end of 2014 after 17 years of exile.

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