November 5, 2015 / 4:46 PM / 3 years ago

Burkina ex-foreign minister says he is 'political prisoner' - lawyer

PARIS (Reuters) - Burkina Faso’s former foreign minister Djibril Bassole has accused transitional authorities of detaining him for political reasons to prevent him running in this month’s presidential election, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Burkina Faso's Minister of Foreign Affairs Djibril Bassole addresses the 67th United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. Headquarters in New York, September 28, 2012. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Bassole was arrested in mid-September accused of supporting a coup against the interim government ahead of scheduled elections. He was previously a joint U.N.-African Union mediator in Sudan’s Darfur conflict and foreign minister under longtime leader Blaise Compaore.

“Djibril Bassole considers that he is still a presidential candidate and that he is a pure political prisoner,” Alexandre Varaut told a small group of reporters in Paris.

Varaut, speaking on his return from Ouagadougou, said that in documentation he had been given access to by the Burkina courts there was nothing supporting accusations against his client.

According to two sources familiar with the court proceedings, Bassole’s charges include colluding with foreign forces to destabilise interior security.

“All of this is a blatant lie. He has nothing to do with the putsch. He is neither the organiser, an accomplice or a beneficiary,” Varaut said. “There is no damning evidence in this dossier. It is simply a way of preventing him from participating in the electoral process.”

Justice Minister Josephine Ouédraogo declined to comment.

The presidential guard led by General Gilbert Diendere took the president, prime minister and cabinet members hostage in mid-September, before scheduled elections. Protests erupted against the revolt, and Diendere was forced to hand back power after a week.

The government has since set Nov. 29 as a new date for presidential and legislative elections, seeking to get a transition to democracy back on track.

However, Varaut said Bassole’s team of lawyers had appealed on Thursday to the region’s top court to try to push Burkina to abide by a ruling made in July or suspend elections until the matter is clarified.

The transitional government changed the electoral law in April to exclude anyone who supported Compaore’s bid to remain in power and in late August banned Bassole from running in the election.

The regional court for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) later overruled the decision, but Burkina Faso’s constitutional council has ignored its ruling.

While ECOWAS is the highest appeal tribunal in the region, it is not clear how it can enforce its decision.

“At this point the candidates have been ruled on by the constitutional court of Burkina Faso and that is the legitimate constitutional body so we need to move on with its decision since it’s not appealable anyway,” Mohamed Ibn Chambas, U.N. Special Representative for West Africa told Reuters on Oct. 29.

Reporting by John Irish; Additional reporting by Emma Farge in Dakar and Nadoun Coulibaly in Ouagadougou; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Toby Chopra

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