Mon, Jun 15, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Ex-military leaders arrested in Guinea on drug charges


About 20 people, including the former chief of the armed forces and his son, have been indicted in the West African nation of Guinea on drug-related charges, a statement read on national TV said.

The people charged also include the former head of the country’s navy as well as 10 foreign nationals, including one Israeli.

State television on Saturday showed several officers, including former army chief General Diarra Camara and former navy head Admiral Aly Daffe, being bundled into vehicles by armed soldiers.

“These officers are accused of having taken part in the drugs trade. It is now up to the courts to decide their fate,” Captain Moussa Tiegboro Camara, secretary of state in charge of fighting drug trafficking and banditry, told the television.

Their trials will begin this week, according to a statement released late on Friday.

The indictment on drug trafficking charges by the administration of coup leader Captain Moussa “Dadis” Camara came after months of investigation by an extrajudicial ministry created after the coup.

Dadis Camara came to power in a December coup, hours after the death of the country’s former strongman Lansana Conte, a deeply corrupt ruler whose own son is believed to have been one of the country’s top drug lords.

Camara won support by promising to crack down on corruption, including the rampant cocaine trade, but the approach of his the National Council for Democracy (CNDD) has been widely criticized as unfair.

Instead of going through the courts, Dadis Camara appointed a fellow army officer to head a new ministry charged with investigating crime.

That officer ordered the arrest of several dozen people — including the son of the former dictator — who were jailed on suspicion of drug trafficking.

One by one, they were then paraded in front of the coup leader, who interrogated them in his salon and broadcast their so-called “confessions” on state television.

Many Guineans were riveted and took satisfaction in seeing formerly powerful members of the previous regime forced to account for their crimes.

But rights groups point out that the arrests were politically selective, targeting mostly the upper echelons of the army under Conte — gray-haired generals and colonels who lost their grip on power.

Critics are quick to list the names of officers serving in CNDD who also are suspected of drug trafficking but that have been untouched by the rash of arrests.

Earlier this month, the country’s judges went on strike to deplore what they called the “parallel justice system” created by Dadis Camara in his fight on drugs.

The international community has been deeply divided by the recent developments in Guinea, with some privately praising the coup leader for cracking down on the booming cocaine trade, while others demanding a return to constitutional rule.

Guinea — like many poor west African countries — has become a key transit point for Latin American cocaine headed to Europe.

The CNDD has promised to hold an election in the top bauxite-exporter by the end of the year but some senior military officers this week said the country would not be ready for polls until next year.

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