Equatorial Guinea rights activist arrested as tries to receive award
Alfredo Okenve was arrested at Malabo airport on Friday night when he was about to board a flight to Madrid after the cancellation of an awards ceremony earlier in the day.
A leading figure in the country’s civil society movement, Okenve is one of the leaders of the Center for Studies and Initiatives for the Development of Equatorial Guinea (CEID-GE), which said he had been flown back home to the port city of Bata and placed under house arrest.
The authorities “prevented him from flying to Spain,” said Mariano Nkogo, who is also a senior figure within the NGO. He said a military plane had been chartered to fly Okenve back to Bata.
“He was asked to remain at home where he is under surveillance. His passport and his mobile phone have been taken by the security forces,” he told AFP.
His arrest was also confirmed by a police officer at the airport and by the opposition Convergence for Social Democracy (CPDS) whose members have been previously targeted in a crackdown by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, who has ruled the West African state for 39 years.
Okenve had arrived in Malabo on Thursday, a day ahead of a ceremony at the French Institute where he was to receive the Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law from French and German ambassadors.
But Friday afternoon’s award ceremony was cancelled after the Guinean government sent a formal note to the envoys’ representatives saying it did not recognise the award, a regional diplomatic source said.
“Due to the lack of transparency in the awarding of this prize, the government of Equatorial Guinea cannot recognise its validity,” said the note, a copy of which was seen by AFP.
The French and German embassies then postponed the ceremony.
In late October, Okenve was seized and beaten by unidentified men who left him in a remote area of Bata. He then went to Madrid to seek medical care, only returning home in mid-February.
He had previously been detained for several days for celebrating the 20-year anniversary of his organisation.
Critics accuse 76-year-old Obiang, Africa’s longest-serving leader, of the brutal repression of opponents as well as election fraud and corruption.
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