E.Guinea opposition denounces 'illegal detention' of prisoners

Malabo (Equatorial Guinea) (AFP) –


The leading opposition party in Equatorial Guinea has denounced the "illegal detention" of its activists, with dozens in prison despite a pledge last month by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema that they would be released.

Obiang, who has ruled the West African state since 1979, issued a decree granting what he described as a total amnesty on July 4, in a bid to smooth the way for a "national dialogue" between political leaders in the country.

But the Citizens for Innovation (CI) party said dozens of "political prisoners" remain incarcerated, including about thirty of its own members.

"It has been 27 days since President Teodoro Obiang Nguema declared a total amnesty... the government must know that keeping all political detainees in prison is legally interpreted as illegal detention," said CI in a statement, AFP learned Wednesday.

Obiang, 76, has been widely criticised for corruption and human rights abuses during his decades in power.

Since the amnesty decree, only one person -- Julian Abaga, a college professor jailed for criticising Obiang -- has been released.

The CI was banned in February and 21 of its members, including the party's sole member of parliament, were subsequently sentenced to 30 years for "sedition, public disorder, attacks on authority and serious bodily harm."

The move followed an attempted coup, in December, involving a group of men from Chad, the Central African Republic (CAR) and Sudan, according to the authorities.

CI says it has had no "sign of life" from activists in Evinayong prison, in the centre of the country, since July 19.