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Trial of Congo's former presidential candidate opens

Republic of the Congo

The trial of General Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko, a former presidential candidate accused by Congolese authorities of trying to stage a coup opened in the capital Brazaville on Monday.

Mokoko, 71 and a former chief of staff of the Republic of Congo’s army, appeared in the criminal court to face accusations of “undermining internal state security” after a 2016 presidential poll in which he came third.

The general, once an advisor of long-serving President Denis Sassou Nguesso, faces a trial which his defence counsel says is “simply a settling of political scores.”

Reporters who had been able to enter the hearing were ushered out prior to the reading of the charge sheet. Only state television and official presidential media representatives were permitted to remain inside.

In March 2016, Mokoko won less than a 14% vote share as Sassou Nguesso was controversially declared a first-round winner.

Sassou Nguesso, 74, has cumulatively spent almost 35 years in office since 1979.

After the vote, Mokoko and other candidates called for a campaign of “civil disobedience.”

The charge sheet against him has to date not been made public. His Congolese and French lawyers say they will not speak at the trial.

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