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Two journalists released provisionally in Gabon, still face trial on “propaganda” charges

Gaston Asseko, the technical director of radio Sainte-Marie, and three leading civil society members held in the same case were released provisionally on January 12, as was a police officer who was arrested with them. Tendance Gabon editor Léon Dieudonné Kougou, who was arrested with Asseko on December 30, was released provisionally on January 7, Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) has reported.

“Asseko’s provisional release is excellent news for him and his family,” RSF said. “He recently underwent an operation and his health deteriorated during these two weeks of detention. We now pin our hopes on the investigating judge’s ability to recognise that there is no substance to these charges and to dismiss the case.”

Asseko and his co-defendants were removed from Libreville prison and taken before an investigating judge, who announced they were being granted provisional release. Asseko told RSF he was “relieved” but said the 14 days in prison had taken their toll on him.

His lawyer, Ruphin Nkoulou-Ondo, told RSF that they were charged with “oral or written propaganda with a view to inciting a revolt against the authorities” and “possession of a document with the intention of disseminating it for propaganda purposes.” The charges were like a “Sword of Damocles hanging over them,” he added.

The document mentioned in the charges is an open letter to President Omar Bongo that was published last month by Bruno Ben Moubamba, the spokesman of a group called the Free Actors of Gabonese Civil Society. It calls on Bongo to give an accounting of his management of the country’s finances for the last 40 years. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison and a fine of 250,000 CFA francs (380 euros).

Date posted: January 14, 2009 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 221