Benin Opposition Leader Reckya Madougou Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison

Benin Opposition Leader Reckya Madougou Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison (News Central TV)

Benin Republic’s Economic Crime and Terrorism Court has sentenced one its foremost opposition leader and former justice minister Reckya Madougou on Saturday to 20 years in prison for terrorism.

The special court(CRIET) in the capital Porto-Novo after over 20 hours of hearings, found Madougou, 47, guilty of “complicity in terrorist acts”.  

The Economic Crime and Terrorism Court or CRIET on Tuesday sentenced another key opposition figure to 10 years.

Many have criticised President Patrice Talon for using the court which was set up in 2016 to crack down on the opposition, thereby steeping the country into despotism.

“This court has deliberately decided to penalise an innocent person,” Madougou said shortly before her prison sentence was announced. “I have never been and I will never be a terrorist.”

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 One of her France-based lawyers Antoine Vey told the trial on Friday that “this procedure is nothing but a political attack”.

President of Benin, President Patrice Talon

“Even before her arrest, everything was orchestrated,” Vey said a day after arriving from Paris. He asked for the trial to be cancelled, before leaving the court and never returning.

He said it was “a trial in which nothing was judicial”.

Madougou was one of several Benin opposition leaders banned from running in an election in April in which Talon won a second term with 86 percent of the vote.

She was arrested in March, a few weeks ahead of elections on the charge of financing an operation to assassinate political figures to prevent the poll, in an alleged bid to “destabilise” the country.

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One of Madougou’s counsel, Robert Dossou said “It’s a sad day for our justice system, I maintain that there is no proof.”

Benin was long praised for its thriving multi-party democracy in a troubled region. But critics say the West African state’s democracy has continuously eroded under Talon, a 63-year-old cotton magnate first elected in 2016.

Benin opposition figure Joel Aivo

Some opposition leaders have fled the country while others were disqualified from running in elections, or targeted for elimination or investigation.

Joel Aivo, a professor who had been held for eight months, was found guilty on Tuesday of plotting against the state and money laundering.

Aivo, who was also barred from running in the election, was arrested on April 15, four days after the polls that saw Talon returned to power.

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