Togo coup plotters jailed

2011-09-16 13:40

Togo - The brother of Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Thursday for a 2009 plot threatening the security of the West African state.

Kpatcha Gnassingbe was found guilty by Togo's supreme court, along with 32 co-conspirators, including former army chief Assani Tidjani who also received a 20-year sentence.

Prosecutors last week demanded life sentences for seven of the accused, saying they had been plotting to overthrow the president when they were detained. The court handed down sentences ranging from 12 months to 20 years.

Faure Gnassingbe was elected leader of the world's fourth biggest phosphates producer in a violent and flawed vote in 2005 after the death of his father who had ruled the country with an iron fist since seizing power in 1967.

Faure Gnassingbe cancelled a trip to China in April 2009 after being warned a plot was imminent and Kpatcha, who was a parliamentarian and former defence minister at the time, was arrested in a raid on his home by security forces.

Kpatcha and the other accused had always maintained their innocence, saying they were set up.

Faure Gnassingbe was re-elected in a March 2010 election with more than 60 percent of the vote. The opposition said the vote was rigged to favour the president and the government outlawed demonstrations against the results.

Togo, a former French colony, is near the bottom of the United Nations human development index, and its economy relies heavily on production of phosphate, coffee, cocoa and cotton.