Guinea opposition trial suspended as more protests erupt
A Guinea court on Wednesday suspended the trial of eight opposition leaders accused of organising protests against President Alpha Conde, as fresh rioting broke out in the capital Conakry.
The opposition says at least 10 people have died in three days of deadly clashes during opposition protests against Conde’s push for constitutional reforms that critics say aim at letting him run for a third term.
Conde, 81, became the poor West African state’s first democratically-elected president in 2010. But critics say his rule has been marred by a growing crackdown on dissent.
The eight on trial belong to an alliance of unions, political parties and civil society groups called the National Front for the Defence of the Constitution (FNDC) which formed in April and has appealed for a massive turnout in rallies.
The tribunal’s president suspended their trial on Wednesday at the request of the prosecutors, defence attorney Mohamed Traore said. The process was scheduled to restart on Friday.
Some shops had reopened in the Matoto district of the capital but protests continued Hamdallaye, Cosa, Koloma, Lambanyi, and Kobaya, according to witnesses.
“These young people are crazy, we are tired, we want them to go home, but it’s impossible,” said one police source.
The eight were arrested on Saturday and charged with making statements to disturb public order by calling for protests, according to the prosecution.
Authorities say the protests are illegal because they were not given formal permission.
Defence attorneys say the men will plead not guilty as the prosecutors have no proof they disturbed public order by calling for peaceful protests.
“These intimidations from those in power must stop, they will not force us to abandon the fight for democracy,” opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo said Wednesday, demanding the prosecutions stop.
Clashes have erupted in the capital Conakry and other cities since Monday, killing at least 10 people among the demonstrators, according to the opposition, relatives, and doctors who say some of them were shot dead by the police.
But the government said security forces did not use firearms and have confirmed only the death of one Conakry resident and a gendarme.
Conde has in the past drawn criticism over the police’s deadly use of gunfire to quell demonstrations. About 100 people have been killed since he came to power, according to the opposition.
Earlier this month, opposition lawmakers decided to withdraw from parliament over Conde’s reform bid.
Last month the Guinean leader called on the public to prepare for a referendum and elections, raising speculation that he was planning to overcome the constitutional ban on a third term in office.