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Guinea: Politicians prosecuted after banned anti-government demonstration

Guinean politicians detained briefly Monday   -  
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Guinea

Several Guinean political leaders were questioned and held in custody all day on Monday 24 October, leading the country's opposition to denounce what they say is a fresh attempt, by the ruling junta, to silence dissent.

According to one of their lawyers, Fodé Oussou Fofana, Cellou Baldé, Bano Sow, Mamadou Sylla, Dembo Sylla, Pépé Francis, Etienne Soropogui and Bouya Konaté are being prosecuted for their participation in, or support for, last week's anti-junta protests in which three people died.

"We believe that our clients benefit from the presumption of innocence and have already told their part of the truth in relation to the charges brought against them, which were even mentioned in the letters of convocation, namely prohibited assembly, provocation of prohibited demonstrations and several other assaults and injuries, and others."  Me Salifou Béavogui, Lawyer of some of the indicted political leaders said.

The politicians were later released in the evening, but are due to appear again on Thursday. 

The National Front for the Defence of the Constitution (FNDC) had called for the protest to demand a quick return to a civilian led government and the release of all prisoners detained for political reasons.

In a statement released last week, the group called the ruling junta "dictatorial." and identified the three people killed as Thierno Bella Diallo, Boubacar Diallo and Thierno Moussa Barry. It also added that 20 people suffered gunshot wounds while many others were arrested.

Justice Minister Alphonse Charles Wright confirmed their deaths in a statement on Friday, but said the causes "remain to be clarified by autopsy".

He ordered prosecutions, without commenting on the alleged perpetrators but stressed that the authorities' were determined to combat impunity.

- 'More severe sanctions' -

Rights activists regularly accuse Guinean police and gendarmes of using excessive force, and the authorities of turning a blind eye in a country with a history of political violence.

The justice minister ordered the identification "without delay" of a member of the security forces whose image has gone viral on social networks. A video shows him firing a pistol at a target who is not visible in the footage.

The poor but mineral-rich West African state has been under military government since a September 2021 coup that ousted president Alpha Conde after more than 10 years in power.

An alliance of political parties, trade unions and civil groups, the FNDC spearheaded protests against Conde before his ouster.

It was officially dissolved in August by the junta-appointed government.

The coalition had called for peaceful demonstrations to take place in Conakry on Thursday, followed by nationwide protests on October 26.

West African leaders suspended Guinea from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and imposed sanctions last month on a number of individuals.

It gave the ruling junta one month to present a "reasonable and acceptable" timetable for the return of civilian rule, an ultimatum that theoretically expires this weekend.

If they fail to do so, ECOWAS has warned that it will adopt "more severe sanctions".

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