Benin Opposition Leader Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison

A court in Benin convicted one of President Patrice Talon’s main opponents Saturday for complicity in acts of terrorism.

 

Reckya Madougou was sentenced to 20 years in prison after a trial her lawyers denounced as a political hit job. The verdict was announced at about 6 a.m. local time  (0500 GMT) following a trial that included no witnesses, her lawyers said in a statement.

 

“Her crime was to have represented a democratic alternative to the regime of Patrice Talon,” said lawyer Antoine Vey.  

 

The conviction of Madougou, a former justice minister, comes days after another of Talon’s leading opponents, Joel Aivo, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for plotting against the state and laundering money.

 

Madougou was arrested in March and accused of financing an operation to assassinate political figures to prevent the presidential election the following month from going ahead. Her candidacy had earlier been rejected by the electoral commission.  

 

Talon won a second term with 86% of the vote in a poll boycotted by much of the opposition and marred by violent protests.

 

Shortly before she was convicted, Madougou addressed the court, according to a post on her Facebook page. “I offer myself up for democracy and if my sacrifice allows you, Mr. President (of the court) and your colleagues to recover your independence from the executive, then I will not have suffered in vain,” it quoted her as saying.

 

Human rights group and opponents of Talon, a multi-millionaire cotton magnate, say he has upended Benin’s democratic traditions since coming to power in 2016. Several opponents have been arrested and electoral reforms signed by Talon in 2018 disqualified all opposition parties from running for parliament the following year.

 

Talon has denied targeting political opponents or violating human rights.

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