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Wednesday, 31 July, 2002, 14:48 GMT 15:48 UK
Jail for Equatorial Guinea net slur
President Theodoro Obiang Nguema
President Obiang keeps a close eye on the opposition
Opposition leader Fabian Nseu Guema has been sentenced to one year in prison for insulting Equatorial Guinea's president on the internet.

An appeals court found the leader of the Popular Union (UP) party guilty of "complicity in insults and libel against the head of state", according to the French news agency, AFP.

The appeal court verdict follows an earlier court appearance on 29 April, when the prosecution accused him of writing an insulting letter which appeared on the internet and asked for a sentence of 20 years in prison.

Mr Nseu, a lawyer, was first arrested in April when he was preparing the defence for 144 people accused of an unsuccessful coup plot against President Theodoro Obiang Nguema in October 2001.

In June, 68 of the alleged coup plotters were sentenced to between six and 20 years in prison. Those jailed included the leader of the main opposition party in Equatorial Guinea, Placido Mico Abogo.

Writer jailed

The appeals court did not provide details of the letter at the centre of the case but accepted that Mr Nseu was not the author.

Last week, an exiled member of the UP, Laurentino Esono Mibuy, was sentenced to two years in prison for being the author of the letter.

Mr Nseu received a year's jail sentence, the suspension of his civil rights and a fine of $45,000 after being found guilty of complicity.

The Equatorial Guinean Government's treatment of opposition politicians has been criticised by the European Union and Amnesty International.

During the trial of the alleged coup plotters, the EU said that confessions of involvement in the coup had been obtained under duress.

Amnesty International's representative for Equatorial Guinea said he had seen evidence of torture in the cases of almost 90 per cent of the defendants.

Elections are due in Equatorial Guinea in 2003.

See also:

04 Apr 02 | Business
29 Jun 02 | Country profiles
29 Jun 02 | Africa
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