Congo Frees Supporters of Jailed Presidential Candidate Mokoko

By Elie Smith

Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko.   Photographer: Marco Longari/AFP via Getty Images
Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko.
Photographer: Marco Longari/AFP via Getty Images

Authorities in the Republic of Congo freed 11 political prisoners who backed opposition presidential candidate Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko in elections two years ago, said a lawyer who represented them.

 Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso, who is scheduled to meet French President Emmanuel Macron next month, has faced international pressure to improve his administration’s human-rights record. Advocacy groups including Amnesty International have criticized the authorities for arbitrarily arresting and jailing government opponents, while local civil-society groups estimate dozens of political prisoners have been jailed.
 The eleven were freed on Oct. 19, Eric Yvon Ibouanga said by phone Saturday from the capital, Brazzaville. Those released include Jacques Banagazala, former head of the state-run media regulator, and Jean Ngouabi, a former mayor of the central town of Owando and member of Mokoko’s campaign team. Ngouabi was accused of planning to overthrow the government with the help of French mercenaries.
 “We were jailed on trumped up charges and the truth has triumphed because they saw no need to keep us in jail,” Ngouabi said by phone. “I call onto Sassou Nguesso to free Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko, Okombi Salissa and all other political prisoners.”
Salissa, a former opposition presidential candidate arrested in January, is awaiting trial for allegedly threatening state security.

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