Ex-President of Comoros Denied Defence; Lawyer Appeals to Supreme Court

Former President of Comoros Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi

October 2, 2018//-While Jennifer Lawrence took to the stage at United Nations General Assembly to discuss democracy in crisis, in Comoros, former President Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi languishes in a prison-like situation in Moroni and is denied access to his lawyer in private.

Comorians have taken to the streets in Europe and in Africa to protest against the arrests of political dissidents and the attack on democracy. From Geneva to Reunion Island they marched for ‘freedom of political prisoners’.

Since President Sambi landed in Moroni in May, he was put under house arrest on May 19th and on August 20th, he was charged with corruption. His lawyer was not even notified about anything.

His lawyer A Mahamoud says, “A note suspending the house arrest of my client was released on August 19, 2018, without us being informed. My actions to overturn this administrative decision were repeatedly postponed for the last month before the judge notified me that the Ministry of Interior had put an end to the house arrest of former President Sambi a day before his summons before the judge.”

On President Sambi’s charges, he says, “I would like to remind you that the facts with which he is charged are out of statute of limitation.  Mr. Sambi has not been in office since May 26, 2011, therefore, there is a statute of limitation according to the law of our countryHowever, I am unable to speak with my client about the allegations. I am unable to talk to my client alone. I, therefore, decided to make an appeal to the Supreme Court of Comoros so that the law can be upheld and that I may finally see my client without the presence of a police officer.”

According to reports, the inter-Comorian dialogue initiated after the AU meeting is also under stress as civil society organisations, who were invited by the opposition alliance were told they were not welcome by the government representatives.
It has also been reported that the government is not backing down from the referendum which it considers to be “ancient history”. The opposition is very disappointed by the intransigency of the government.

Though welcoming the inter-Comorian dialogueAboubakar Aboud, spokesperson for Juwa Party stresses the importance of proper representation of all parties including civil societies and the importance of freeing political prisoners.

“The violations of the Constitution combined with numerous violations of individual liberties by a corrupt judiciary and an army serving a dictator, seriously questions the legitimacy of Colonel Azali as the president of our country.”

As of today September 26th, we have decided to suspend the dialogue with the government. This suspension is linked to the fact that the government has shown no willingness to respect the appeasement points reached with the AU. We therefore refuse to sit and talk alone with the government without the presence of representatives of the AU or the SADC at the dialogue.

BACKGROUND
On July 30, Comoros passed a referendum to revise the nation’s constitution. Among other changes, the referendum extended presidential term limits and abolished a power-sharing system that had rotated the presidency every five years between the main islands of Grand Comore, Anjouan and Moheli.

Since the referendum, which was boycotted by the opposition, President Azali Assoumani has moved to consolidate power by arresting and issuing warrantsfor prominent opponents such as former Vice President Jaffar Ahmed Said Hassani, deputy Chief of Staff of the Army Colonel Ibrahim Salim, the general secretary of Juwa Party, Ahmed Hassane El Barwane, spokesman for the party Dr. Ahmed Abdou Chakour  and Milano Henri Alphonse, treasurer of the party and of course former President Sambi.Last month, state prosecutor Mohamed Abdoua announced the arrest of five people, including Hassani’s brother and the writer Said Ahmed Said Tourqui.

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