E.Guinea opposition says prisoners still jailed despite amnesty

Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema recently decreed a “total amnesty” for political prisoners and opponents, a condition imposed by the opposition to participate in the national dialogue scheduled for mid-July. By Pius Utomi EKPEI (AFP/File)

Equatorial Guinea’s main opposition leader said Tuesday that political prisoners remain locked up in the country despite authoritarian President Teodoro Obiang Nguema declaring a “total amnesty” last week.

“The law is not enforced in Equatorial Guinea, the government does not respect it. The president decreed a total amnesty on July 4, but people are still in prison,” said Gabriel Nse Obiang, head of the banned Citizens for Innovation (CI) party.

The CI was banned on February 26. Twenty-one of its members, including the party’s sole MP, were subsequently sentenced to 30 years for “sedition, public disorder, attacks on authority and serious bodily harm”.

Dozens of its supporters have been tortured, according to the CI which says two have died in custody.

“We are asking the government for an explanation,” said Obiang.

“If another political prisoner dies again in prison when he should already be free, who will be responsible?”

The president, 76, has ruled the West African state since 1979, a tenure widely criticised for corruption, human rights abuses and misuse of the country’s oil wealth.

On July 4, he issued a decree granting “total amnesty to all citizens condemned by the courts,” a move that came in the context of a claimed process of national dialogue.

Rights monitor Amnesty International last week said words had to be followed by actions, noting that “in 2014, a similar announcement was made by the president but not all political prisoners were released”.

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A Western diplomat has been scathing, saying the announcement “was a con game and everyone knows it”.

Obiang seized power in the former Spanish colony by ousting his own uncle, first post-independence president Francisco Macias Nguema, who was then shot by firing squad.

He has since seen off at least half a dozen assassination or coup attempts, the latest of which reportedly involved a group of men from Chad, Central African Republic and Sudan.

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