(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

President warns would-be coup plotters

Guinea-Bissau President Kumba Yala on Wednesday warned "any would-be coup plotters" when he sworn in Almara Nhasse, the country's new prime minister. Nhasse replaces Faustino Imbali, who was head of government for about nine months until Yala dismissed him Friday. Imbali's predecessor had lasted about one year.

Any politician who gets involved with the military in their barracks would be shot, Yala was quoted as saying by various media organisations, including Lusa, Diario de Noticias, a Portuguese newspaper and RDP (Portuguese radio). He said he was specifically warning "frustrated politicians" who "tried at all costs to get power". RDP also quoted him as saying that he was aware of all the "manoeuvres and plots that are being prepared within political parties".

The warnings came just over a week after the government announced - on 3 December - that it had foiled a coup plot. Nhasse, then interior minister, briefed parliament on the reported coup attempt but some members of the legislative body, which is dominated by opposition parties, instead told government to prove its claims.

Many former military officers and paramilitary officers have been detained in connection with the reported coup plot, including its "leaders", former deputy army chief of staff Almane Alam Camara and ex-navy chief Mohamed Lamine Sanha.

Amnesty International said on Tuesday that it was concerned about the detentions. "At present there is little detailed information about the alleged coup attempt and the authorities apparently have not yet provided evidence to support the claim, nor released information about the number of people detained, their names and the places of detention." it said.

It called on the authorities "to ensure that the human rights of all detainees are protected" and reminded them that "those detained in the aftermath of the alleged coup attempt should be released immediately and unconditionally unless they are promptly charged with a recognized criminal offence and tried in compliance with international standards of fair trial".

It also recalled that Camara and Sanha were among "at least 200 military and paramilitary officers ... and 10 civilian leaders of peaceful political opposition parties (who) were arrested following an alleged coup attempt" - in November 2000 - whose alleged leader, Brigadier Ansumane Mané, "was subsequently killed in disputed circumstances".

"The civilians were released on bail within a week, without having charges brought against them," Amnesty said. However, it added, "restrictions remain imposed upon them, including being prevented from leaving the country and having to report to the police or courts periodically.

"The military officers remained in prison for about seven months, in conditions which constituted cruel and inhuman treatment. Many contracted life threatening illnesses in detention, while the health of others -- already suffering from chronic diseases -- deteriorated. They were released on bail in May and June 2000. They have not been charged. However, they still have to report to the authorities daily."

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