Equatorial Guinea's vice-president Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, who is also the son of the president, has accused the country’s former colonial power Spain of "interference."
The allegation comes after Spain’s judiciary opened an investigation into the "kidnapping" and "torture" of two Spanish nationals, Feliciano Efa Mangue and Julio Obama Mefuman, in the West African state’s capital Malabo. Both were opponents of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo's regime.
He is now 80 years old and has been in power since 1979, which makes him the longest-serving president in Africa.
The investigation, revealed on Tuesday by the Spanish daily El País and confirmed to AFP in Madrid by a judicial source, targets three relatives of President Obiang.
One of the three is another of his sons, Carmelo Ovono Obiang (pictured in tweet below), who is the head of the Foreign Intelligence Service; Nicolás Obama Nchama, the Minister of National Security, and Isaac Nguema Endo, the Director General of Presidential Security.
They are among the most senior security officials in the small but wealthy West African oil state. It's also one of the most closed states in the world and it endures one of the world's most authoritarian regimes.
The three men are suspected by the Madrid court of having had four opponents forcibly returned to Spain from South Sudan in 2019. The four include two Spanish citizens of Equatorial Guinean origin. All of them were tortured, the newspaper alleges, saying it had access to Spanish police reports.
"These terrorists were arrested by the Sudanese authorities and extradited to Equatorial Guinea" under an "international arrest warrant" issued by Malabo, Vice President Obiang said in a tweet dated Tuesday evening, nicknamed Teodorin, who accuses Spain of "interference.”
The trial was observed by the American Bar Association’s Center for Human Rights and as part of the Clooney Foundation for Justice’s Trial Watch Project. It found the trial was marred by egregious procedural irregularities, including the President’s appointment of military judges and prosecutors by executive decree.
Two four are all members of the Movement for the Liberation of the Third Republic of Equatorial Guinea (MLGE3R), a political opposition movement in exile in Spain.
The two Spanish nationals, Feliciano Efa Mangue and Julio Obama Mefuman, were sentenced in March 2020 in Malabo to 90 and 60 years in prison respectively, for participating in an "attempted coup" against President Obiang in December 2017.
A year earlier, 112 defendants, including these four in absentia, had been sentenced to decades in prison on the same charges.
According to El País, the two were arrested in Juba by South Sudanese soldiers and put on the "presidential plane" bound for Equatorial Guinea, together with the two other members of MLGE3R legally residing in Spain, Bienvenido Ndong Ondo and Martín Obiang Wave.
The MLGE3R tweeted in Spanish that its members were kidnapped:
According to El País, which cites accounts by "protected witnesses" and a Spanish police report, the four were allegedly subjected to cruel torture sessions in Malabo to which the three senior security officials targeted by the Madrid investigation "have participated".