News24

Protest leaders detained

2012-06-17 12:47

Lome - Authorities in the West African nation of Togo have detained three protest leaders and 53 others over demonstrations in recent days that were dispersed with tear gas, officials said on Saturday.

"Following protests organised on 12, 13 and 14 June by the group of associations and political parties named the Let's Save Togo collective, deliberate violence, destruction and damage were committed against individuals and public and private goods," a statement from prosecutors said.

"A total of 56 people are currently in custody."

The statement said they included three organisers. According to the Let's Save Togo collective, they were its leader Zeus Ajavon and two other officials from the group.

"Three officials from the collective, including its coordinator Zeus Ajavon, as well as two journalists, were detained on Saturday by the intelligence and investigation services and held at the gendarmerie," a statement from the group said.

The group said the two journalists had been released.

Surrounded

It also alleged that the homes of two opposition figures, including former presidential candidate Jean-Pierre Fabre, were surrounded on Saturday as they prepared to attend a rally.

Togolese security forces took over an area where a third day of protests that had drawn thousands was to be held on Thursday after police fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators the previous day.

Several thousand had gathered for protests in the capital Lome on Tuesday and Wednesday over changes to the electoral law opposition members say the governing party forced through in a country led by the same family for more than four decades.

Security forces broke up the demonstration on Wednesday with tear gas, and the opposition claimed 119 people were wounded over the two days amid government "repression."

Security Minister Colonel Gnama Latta said Wednesday that 22 policemen were injured in the two days of unrest when protesters hurled missiles at them and erected barricades in certain districts.

Iron fist

The protests have come ahead of parliamentary elections expected for October.

They were organised against the adoption by the National Assembly of modifications to the electoral law, including one increasing the number of deputies in the next legislature by 10 to 91.

While the polls are expected to be held in October, no precise date has been set. Let's Save Togo has argued for a longer delay before elections to allow reforms to be carried out.

On Friday, France condemned the "violence" in Togo and urged measures to ensure transparent and peaceful elections.

General Gnassingbe Eyadema ruled Togo for 38 years with an iron fist until his death in 2005. The military then installed his son Faure Gnassingbe as president and he later won elections in 2005 and 2010.