Benin opposition leaders will not appeal jail terms – lawyers

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Two Benin opposition politicians sentenced this month to long jail terms will not appeal their sentences, their legal teams said on Monday.

On December 14, academic Joel Aivo was jailed for 10 years for "plotting against the state". Four days later, Reckya Madougou, a former justice minister, received 20 years for "terrorism".

Both trials lasted less than two days. Both took place at the Economic Crime and Terrorism Court (CRIET), set up in 2016 ostensibly to end the impunity of Benin's political elite, but which critics charge is being used by President Patrice Talon to snuff out dissent.

"The lack of independence of the CRIET and the lack of fairness of the judges motivated" the decision not to appeal, Madougou's lawyer Renaud Agbodjo told AFP.

Aivo's lawyer Robert Dossou told journalists "he does not believe in (the process), and neither do I".

The cases raise "grave concerns about political interference in Benin's criminal justice system", the US State Department has said in a statement, expressing alarm at the "systematic targeting" of opposition figures.

"Demonstrating... that the judicial system will not be used for political purposes is essential to restoring Benin's former reputation as a regional leader in democratic governance and rule of law," said spokesman Ned Price.

Already under fire over the erosion of democracy and electoral irregularities, fears are mounting Talon, a former cotton magnate first elected in 2016, is now undermining the rule of law and independence of the country's courts.


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