Togo coup suspects claim torture

2011-09-08 10:53

Lome - Several suspects standing trial over an alleged 2009 coup plot in Togo on Wednesday told a court they were tortured during their detention by the country's state security agency.

Two half-brothers of Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe and 30 others are accused of attempted violation of state security, criminal conspiracy and rebellion, among others, and face up to life in prison.

The case opened on September 01, but the actual trial started on Tuesday at the Supreme Court in the small west African nation of some 6.7 million people.

"I was handcuffed, chained hand and foot, for five days. Then I had my hands tied to a bar and suspended for three days," Kossi Adjinon, an army captain, said on Wednesday.

"I was beaten and tortured for several days," he added, claiming to be "a survivor of hell."

A former police chief, Olivier Amah, said he was kept in solitary confinement for three months and denied medical services even as he suffers from hypertension.

"I was tortured. I was treated in inhuman and degrading conditions," said Bagoudadi Gnassingbe, another army captain and one of three cousins of the president on trial.

The defence which had on Tuesday walked out of the court, but ended the boycott on Wednesday, asked the court to summon the head of the state security agency over the torture claims.

The president's half brother Kpatcha Gnassingbe, 41, is the main suspect and accused of being the mastermind of the plot targeting his half-brother.

Both men are among the numerous sons of former strongman Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled the country for 38 years until his death in 2005.

Bloody gunfight

A second half-brother, Essolizam Gnassingbe, as well as the ex-head of the armed forces, Assani Tidjani, are also among the accused.

Six defence lawyers walked out of the courtroom on Tuesday, protesting the judge's refusal to postpone the case and arguing that Kpatcha, a lawmaker at the time of his arrest, was covered by parliamentary immunity.

Eleven suspects that have so far testified, have pleaded not guilty.

Details of the alleged plot have remained unclear. At the time it was claimed that the coup was meant to be staged while the president was away on a trip to China.

The country's elite troops raided Kpatcha's house in an operation that led to a bloody gunfight.

Questions have arisen as to whether there in fact was a coup plot, with some analysts arguing that the rivalry between the president and Kpatcha was strong and intensifying at the time.

Some observers say Kpatcha was ambitious and there was speculation that he was eyeing the presidency in 2010.

Faure Gnassingbe was installed in the presidency by the army in 2005 shortly after the announcement of the death of his father, who had been a general. He has since won elections in 2005 and 2010.