Amnesty International has called for the fair retrial of seven Nigerian nationals, convicted by a court in Equatorial Guinea for their alleged involvement in an attempted coup.
On 5 April, a court in the capital, Malabo, sentenced the six men and one woman to 12 yearsâ€™ imprisonment each, on the charges of attempting to assassinate President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo during an alleged attack on the presidential palace last year.
Reports saidÂ the accused Nigerians pleaded â€˜not guiltyâ€™ and claimed to be fishermen and traders who had been lost at sea and had drifted into Equatorial Guinea waters where they were arrested by the navy. A Nigerian woman also detained at sea has since died in custody.
â€œThe Equatorial Guinean authorities must take action to make sure these men receive a fair trial,â€ said Tawanda Hondora, Deputy Africa Director at Amnesty International.
â€œThey were denied access to proper legal representation and their complaints that they had been tortured in custody have not been investigated. Neither has the death in custody of one other Nigerian woman.â€
Amnesty International is also calling for the release of two members of the Equatorial Guinea opposition party Peopleâ€™s Union (UniÃ³n Popular â€“ UP), who are still in prison six weeks after they were acquitted of all charges relating to the attack.
Media reports said gunmen in speedboats launched the attack on the presidential palace in Malabo in the early hours of 17 February 2009.
The government blamed â€˜MEND, a rebel movement in Nigeriaâ€™s oil_rich Delta region for the attack. Later on the day of the attack, the Equatorial Guinean navy arrested the Nigerian men and women in a boat in Equatorial Guinea territorial waters.
They claimed to be fishermen and traders, lost at sea after their â€œcayucoâ€ (canoe) had drifted in fog. No weapons were found in the boat. Following their arrest the Nigerians and the two UP members were held incommunicado and without charge until mid_October 2009 in Black Beach prison in Malabo. All were reportedly tortured to extract â€œconfessionsâ€ from them.
The seven Nigerians: Marck Etim Marck, Eyoh Okon Ikara, Eyon Kun Jhon, Effiong Matew, Okokon Iyanam (aka Mintay), Isangadighi and Ekaette Eyo Okon, a woman, were tried between 17 and 22 March 2010 by the Tribunal de ApelaciÃ³n de Malabo (Malabo Court of Appeal).
They were not allowed access to a lawyer until a few days before the trial started and were thus denied the right to present an effective defence. No weapons or other evidence was presented in court to sustain the charges against the Nigerian nationals.