Rights watchdog condemns detention of opposition leader

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) has called on Togo's government to release opposition politician Yawovi Agboyibo, sentenced to six months in prison for defamation, and to take action against the perpetrators of human rights violations he denounced.

Agboyibo, president of the opposition Comite d'Action pour le Renouveau, was found guilty of libelling Prime Minister Agbeyome Kodjo.

The FIDH said in a statement released on Thursday that his right to a fair trial had been violated. In particular, "there are serious doubts about the independence of the court whose president is no other than the representative of the ruling party on the National Electoral Commission," it said.

The federation also said it was "particularly worried by the impunity which reigns in Togo" and called on the state to "stop all repression and threats against the opposition".

The international watchdog had complained against the trial and verdict in a letter to President Gnassingbe Eyadema on 16 August. One day later it received a response from Agbeyome expressing surprise that the FIDH "can question a court ruling" and stating that the judiciary acts independently in a state where there is "rule of law".