World Top Benin judge says flees country denouncing pressure
Benin and Sierra Leone await decision on fate of match dogged by COVID intrigue
Benin and Sierra Leone await decision on fate of match dogged by COVID intrigueCAPE TOWN (Reuters) - A decision is expected on Wednesday on the fate of the decisive African Cup of Nations qualifier between Sierra Leone and Benin which failed to take place on Tuesday after five players from Benin were declared COVID-19 positive.
A top Benin judge on Monday said he had quit and fled the West African country, condemning political pressure that he alleged included a demand to detain an opposition figure in the runup to presidential elections.
His denunciation comes as critics accuse President Patrice Talon of cracking down on opponents, including rivals who had sought to contest Sunday's ballot.
Essowe Batamoussi said he had stepped down as a justice with the Economic Crime and Terrorism Court (CRIET), which oversaw a probe into opposition candidate Reckya Madougou, who was arrested last month.
Protests break out in Benin before election
Protests broke out across Benin on Monday night and Tuesday as opposition leaders called for demonstrations days before President Patrice Talon faces an election. Several opposition leaders took to social media to call for demonstrations. Former finance minister Komi Koutche, in exile like many of Benin's opposition figures, called on people to take to the streets to "mark the end of the Republican mandate handed over to Talon".
"The judge that I am is not independent," Batamoussi told France's RFI radio early on Monday in an interview from an undisclosed location.
"All the decisions that we have had to take have been under pressure, including the one which put Reckya Madougou in detention."
Madougou, whose candidacy for the election was rejected, was arrested last month and accused of plotting acts of terrorism to disrupt the elections.
Benin's officials did not want to comment on Batamoussi's remarks.
"It is too early to talk about the judge's resignation because no document has been filed concerning that," said a source in the CRIET.
The CRIET is a special court created by Talon that critics say has become a tool the government uses to suppress opponents with investigations.
Benin's President Talon eyes re-election with few rivals in his path
Benin's President Patrice Talon looks set to win re-election to a second term on Sunday in a presidential ballot critics say is already tilted in his favour after a crackdown on opponents. A cotton tycoon first elected in 2016, Talon faces two little-known rivals with most opposition figures from the West African country either living in exile or disqualified from running in the election. Protests broke out this week in several towns, mainly in opposition strongholds, as tensions built before Sunday's vote with young demonstrators blocking roads and ransacking pro-government property.
Sunday's presidential election promises few surprises, with Talon facing two little-known opposition candidates.
Benin has long been seen as a vibrant multi-party democracy, but Talon's critics say the country has veered into authoritarianism under his rule.
Opponents say the vote is already rigged to favour Talon, a cotton magnate first elected in 2016.
Seventeen other candidates, including Madougou, had their candidacies rejected by the electoral commission for failing to garner the required signatures of support from 16 mayors or MPs.
That requirement was introduced by Talon in a contested electoral reform.
Sebastien Ajavon, an opponent who came third in the previous election and was already sentenced by CRIET in 2018 to 20 years in prison for drug trafficking, was again sentenced in early March in absentia to a second sentence for forgery.
He currently lives in exile, like most of Benin's key opposition leaders.
Last month, leading opposition figure Bio Dramane Tidjani and a party associate were also charged by the CRIET with criminal association and terrorism.
In Benin, President Patrice Heel re-elevated without surprise with 86% of the Voices .
© Etienne Laurent, AFP archive image of the President of Benin, Patrice Talon, during a visit to Paris, March 5, 2018. With 86% of the votes, Patrice Talon, the outgoing Beninese President, was very comfortably re-elected in the first round of the presidential election organized Sunday in Benin, according to the provisional results announced Tuesday evening by the electoral commission of the country, in a ballot. where the head of state was facing almost unknown opposition candidates.