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More Gabonese opposition members jailed

According to the exiled Gabonese opposition group BDP-Gabon Nouveau, a fifth member of its party has now been imprisoned in Gabon. The group claims its member has been jailed for purely political reasons.

In Gabon, where a multi-party political system only exists in theory, several political prisoners are said to be in detention of the regime of President Omar Bongo, who came to power in 1967. The exiled and militant group BDP-Gabon Nouveau now claims that five of its members are political prisoners of the Bongo regime.

According to the group, on Friday (11 July) Hugues Bessaques, President of the National Coordinating Committee of BDP-Gabon Nouveau, was imprisoned by Gabonese secret services. Mr Bessaques was said to be imprisoned for his political activities for BDP in Gabon.

Mr Bessacque thus was said to join four other BDP members in prison; Brice Obanda, Gervais Amogo, Abdul Allogo Mintsa and Pascal Nkoulou. The four had been imprisoned in the night of Friday 4 July, « without being given the opportunity to arrange for their defence or to contact a lawyer, » BDP says in a statement released today.

The exiled group further holds that their four members on 11 July had been given a summary trial « without the least consideration of their right to defend themselves or to have assistance by a lawyer. » The opposition member had been charged with provoking public disorder.

The four dissident are reported to have been transferred to the central prison of Large-Bouquet. According to BDP, they had not been informed about the details of their sentence and had been denied to communicate among themselves and with family members.

The US-based Gabonese opposition group during the last years has stepped up its language against the regime of President Bongo, calling it « incompetent » and « corrupt ». The group is believed to have a very small fellowship in Gabon but is growing in importance among exiled Gabonese due to its strong internet presence.

In Gabon, anti-Bongo groups have been victims to state persecution for decades. Although some organised opposition has been let to win some local elections, the ruling party is known to monopolise power and control security forces and the judiciary. Intents to create a free press are also regularly thwarted.

Also according to United States government reports, the human rights record of the Gabonese government remains poor. There are still outstanding cases of extrajudicial killings by security forces, which remained unresolved. The security forces are also reported to beat and torture prisoners and detainees.

The US government report further holds that prison conditions in Gabon remain « harsh and life threatening » and that arbitrary arrest and detention occur in the country. Further, « the judiciary remained subject to government

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