Mon, Dec 10, 2018 - Page 4 News List

African rights court tells Benin not to jail Ajavon

AFP, COTONOU, Benin

The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights has asked Benin not to impose a controversial 20-year jail sentence on opposition politician Sebastien Ajavon for a drugs conviction, his lawyer said on Saturday.

Ajavon is known as Benin’s “chicken king” because he made his money in livestock.

The former presidential candidate, who stood against the eventual winner, Patrice Talon, in 2016, was convicted at a special tribunal in Porto-Novo in October.

An international arrest warrant was issued as he was not present at the hearing, which his Paris-based legal team denounced as having “serious irregularities.”

No appeal is possible at the Economic and Terrorism Court (CRIET), but Ajavon’s lawyers took the case to the African court, which on Friday ordered Benin to “suspend the execution of the judgement” pending further consideration.

“The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights has given a total vote of no confidence in the state of Benin by ordering it to immediately suspend the implementation of the decision of the CRIET, which found Sebastien Ajavon guilty,” lawyer Julien Bensimhon said.

“It is recognition of the illegal and undemocratic nature of the way in which the CRIET was created and functions, which we have already denounced,” he added.

Despite backing millionaire businessman Talon to help him win the presidency, relations between the two men have since soured. Talon’s opponents have accused him of leading a crackdown.

Ajavon in particular has faced a slew of legal action, including the drugs charges, which relate to the discovery of 18kg cocaine in a container destined for one of his businesses.

He previously went to the African court in Arusha, Tanzania, to demand nearly US$990 million in damages from Benin on the grounds that he had been subjected to “harassment” and a “calculated plot” for two years.

Ajavon has made no secret of his desire to run again for the presidency and in March founded the Social Liberal Union.

There was no immediate reaction from the government to the African court’s ruling.

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