June 24, 2024

Mali jails ten for urging return to civilian rule

Mali jails ten for urging return to civilian rule

Mali has jailed ten opponents of the ruling military junta, including leading opposition politicians, for demanding a return to civilian rule, their lawyers told AFP on Monday.

The lawyers said the ten, who include the heads of parties and groups who signed a March declaration urging the restoration of democracy, are accused of illegal gatherings and plotting against the “legal authorities.”

Those jailed were among 11 people detained last week while holding a private meeting in the capital Bamako after calling for a return to civilian rule. The junta has banned political party meetings.

One of them, former justice minister Mohamed Ali Bathily, was released last Saturday.

A judge ruled those incarcerated had “undermined and conspired against the legal authorities, violating a presidential decree by holding an illegal meeting”, one of their lawyers, Hyacinthe Kone, told AFP, his summary confirmed by fellow defence lawyer Mamary Diarra.

“I have not seen these offences in our penal code. It is rather the government which is illegal,” said Kone.

The opposition denounced the development as “yet another violation of fundamental freedoms” by the West African nation’s junta.

The military rulers, who seized power in 2020, had promised to organise elections and hand over power to civilians by the end of March this year but later postponed elections indefinitely.

Those detained had signed a March 31 declaration in which they condemned the “legal and institutional void” after a deadline passed for the junta to hand over power to civilians. They also demanded a presidential election.

Mali, which is also threatened by a jihadist insurgency, has been ruled by colonels since a double coup in 2020 and 2021.

The junta decreed in June 2022 that the military would cede power to civilians at the end of last March, after a presidential election scheduled for February, only to renege on the promise.

Expressions of opposition have been rare under the junta, which has taken an ever harder line on dissent, including banning political party activities until further notice.

Vanguard News