In Gabon Dozens still held over post-election violence

Violence erupted on August 31 after President Ali Bongo was first declared the winner of the contested vote.

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Gabonese soldiers run to take position as supporters of opposition leader Jean Ping protest in front of security forces blocking a demonstration trying to reach the electoral commission in Libreville play

Gabonese soldiers run to take position as supporters of opposition leader Jean Ping protest in front of security forces blocking a demonstration trying to reach the electoral commission in Libreville

(AFP/File)
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Some 70 people, including several opposition figures, were still in detention nearly a month after a wave of post-election violence erupted in Gabon, a judicial source said on Friday.

Thirty-nine people have been charged for their alleged role in rioting and looting that broke out in Gabon after the disputed vote.

They are being held pending trial, the source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Some 30 others have been brought before a court and were awaiting sentencing, the source added.

Violence erupted on August 31 after President Ali Bongo was first declared the winner of the contested vote.

Opposition demonstrators who believed the election had been rigged set parliament ablaze and clashed with police, who made hundreds of arrests.

Many of the detainees were released within days, after being held in often grim conditions.

Among the opposition figures still in detention were ex-MP Bertrand Zibi Abeghe, who resigned in July.

He was charged for "incitement of rebellion" and "committing acts aimed at disturbing the public peace" in the aftermath of the August 27 vote, which Bongo won by a wafer-thin margin.

"He is now being held in solitary confinement in a dungeon and no one is allowed to see him. He runs the risk of paying with his life for having the courage of resigning ... during an election rally," said the former MP's lawyer, Eric Moutet.

The former head of intelligence, Leon-Paul Ngoulakia -- a cousin of Bongo's who defected to the opposition -- was granted provisional release but was still facing charges, the judicial source said.

Even after the violence died down, the Gabonese authorities continued to arrest opposition figures ahead of the Constitutional Court's dismissal last week of a claim that electoral fraud had been committed.

Bongo was installed for a second time as president on Tuesday, but his second mandate has received a cool reception from the African Union and the United Nations, while the European Union voiced regret the vote count had not been transparent.

On Friday, Gabon's Justice Minister Denise Mekamne said in a statement an inquiry had been opened into a European Union electoral observer mission, which had reported "anomalies" in the vote count.

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