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Benin’s Talon sees no pardon for political foes

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Benin’s president, Patrice Talon, attends a joint declaration with French president at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, April 26, 2016. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/File Photo

Benin’s President Patrice Talon, re-elected earlier this month, said on Friday he saw no need for a pardon or amnesty for opponents arrested following violence during the electoral campaign.

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Talon won 86.3 percent in the April 11 ballot, which critics said was biased in his favour after a crackdown on opposition leaders left most of them exiled or disqualified from running.

Several opposition representatives, including two candidates who were barred, were detained before or just after the vote in the West African state.

“I am not considering impunity, I am not considering turning a blind eye to what happened, or pardoning or giving any amnesty,” Talon said during an interview with broadcaster France 24 when asked about possible gestures of appeasement.

In March, opposition leader Reckya Madougou was detained, accused of plotting assassinations to prevent the election taking place, a charge her lawyer dismissed as politically motivated.

Soon after Talon’s victory, another opponent, Joel Aivo, was arrested and accused of “undermining the security of the state”.

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In the lead-up to the election, two people were killed when troops opened fire with live rounds to clear an opposition protest blockading a major highway in the centre of the country.

Government officials say security forces responded after they came under fire.

“They planned, recruited people and commissioned young people to burn down the country… if they were arrested it is because there is evidence,” Talon said of the opposition figures.

Once praised for its vibrant multi-party democracy, critics say Benin has veered into authoritarian rule under Talon with a steady campaign against his opponents.

Some have fled Benin, while others were disqualified from running after election law reforms, or targeted for investigation by a special court critics say Talon used against his rivals.

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