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Malagasy prosecutor seeks life imprisonment for five accused of coup attempt

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RIJASOLO/AFP or licensors -

Madagascar

The Malagasy public prosecutors on Wednesday called for life imprisonment for five of the 20 people accused of plotting a coup against President Andry Rajoelina, including two Frenchmen, while the defence insisted their clients were innocent.

A stern look under his glasses draped in a thick red coat, the public prosecutor, Arsène Rabe, listed the damning charges according to him, against the defendants, also raising inconsistencies in their defense.

"If you have followed this trial from the beginning, you will have noticed the lies and the pieces that do not fit," he said in a hoarse voice in a courtroom in the capital. 

He also pointed out the inconsistency of the defendants.

"Paul Rafanoharana admits having written the budget" for the project "and then refutes the signatures on the documents. He changes his mind all the time since the preliminary investigation," the prosecution said. 

The defendants face charges ranging from criminal association to compromising state security and planning to kill the head of state.

The alleged operation has been called the "Apollo 21" plot, although only 20 of an initial 21 suspects were retained for trial.

The defendants "put together a plan to eliminate or neutralize various Malagasy public figures including the head of state," according to the prosecution.

The two Frenchmen are Paul Rafanoharana, 58, a dual French-Malagasy national who is a former advisor to the president, and Philippe Francois, 54, an ex-colonel in the French army, who ran an investment company in Madagascar called Tsarafirst.

The two men's wives are also among the defendants.

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