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Guinea ex-PM held for alleged embezzlement

A former Guinean prime minister and three ex-ministers were detained on embezzlement charges Wednesday, one of their lawyers said, in the latest probe targeting prominent figures since last year’s military coup.

Guinea’s military junta, led by Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, deposed elected president Alpha Conde at age 83, amid fierce protests over his successful bid for a third term.

After seizing power, the junta promised to combat endemic corruption in the West African state.

It also stressed that it would not launch a witch hunt.

On Wednesday, a lawyer acting for Ibrahima Kassory Fofana, who served as prime minister under Conde from May 2018 until the coup, said the politician had been detained.

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Former defence minister Mohamed Diane, ex-environment minister Oye Guilavogui and former hydrocarbons minister Zakaria Coulibaly were also held, according to attorney Salifou Beavogui.

The four “have been charged with embezzling public funds,” said Beavogui, adding that they are expected to go on trial on Monday.

“We believe that they do not deserve to be in custody as, pending evidence to the contrary, they have the right to the presumption of innocence. We are dealing with a hasty and punitive procedure,” he said.

The four were ordered to be held after being cross-examined for three days. The details of their alleged offences have not been made public.

The detentions come amid a crackdown on alleged graft by coup leader Doumbouya.

– Crackdown –

The authorities last month razed the house of former prime minister Cellou Dalein Diallo, a three-time presidential candidate, saying it was state property that was obtained illicitly.

Diallo is also being investigated for alleged self-enrichment over the sale of assets in 2002 of the country’s bankrupt airline, Air Guinea.

As part of the crackdown against alleged graft, the junta has set up a special court for dealing with corruption cases.

It has also expelled numerous executives from the state services as part of its anti-graft drive, with former members of Conde’s RPG party coming under pressure too.

The former prime minister and three ex-ministers — who are all RPG members — appeared before the corruption court on Wednesday, according to an AFP journalist.

Gendarmes subsequently escorted them to a prison in the capital Conakry.

Doumbouya has promised to restore civilian rule in Guinea, however, he also sworn himself in as interim president and refused to commit to a date for elections.

Many Guineans initially welcomed the coup. However, there is growing discontent with the junta in the impoverished nation of 13 million people.

On March 22, Doumbouya launched a six-week conference designed to heal historic wounds in the country, which has a history of authoritarian rule.

Prominent political groups, including a coalition that led protests against Conde, are boycotting the talks. AFP