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Ivory Coast must ensure that political opponents arrested last month are granted a fair trial and safeguard their right to legal representation, Amnesty International said.
Five lawmakers were among 17 people detained after the government of President Alassane Ouattara accused former rebel leader Guillaume Soro of plotting a coup as the country prepares for an election on Oct. 31. Those arrested include Soro’s brother Rigobert, an aide to his lawyer, Dahafolo Kone, and five lawmakers, the London-based human rights group said in emailed statement Friday.
Thirteen of those arrested have been charged with “publishing false news, undermining public order and the authority of the state,” Amnesty said. “The timing of the legal proceedings against Guillaume Soro and the arrests of his supporters and relatives are highly suspicious.”
Guillaume Soro, 47, one of Ivory Coast’s youngest and most influential opposition politicians, is being sought for allegedly endangering state security, embezzlement of public funds and money-laundering. He was scheduled to return to the West African country on Dec. 23 after months in Europe building support for his political movement among expatriate Ivorians, but changed his plans after the issue of an arrest warrant.
Ouattara came to power in 2011 after members of Soro’s rebel movement fought alongside United Nations and French troops to oust ex-leader Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to acknowledge an election defeat. Soro, who was seen as a possible successor to Ouattara, resigned as speaker of the national assembly in February last year to build his own political base.
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