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Last Updated: Monday, 17 May, 2004, 09:22 GMT 10:22 UK
Togo 'has no political prisoners'
President Gnassingbe Eyadema
President Eyadema has vowed to improve relations with the EU
Togo's Justice Minister Foli Bazi-Katare has said there are no political prisoners in the country.

"All these prisoners were convicted by the courts as common criminals," he said after talks with the European Union on ending a ban on economic aid.

"None of the prisoners had been jailed for expressing divergent political opinions," he said.

The EU froze aid to Togo in 2003 over the country's lack of democracy and poor human rights record.

The Togolese opposition party, the UFC, says some of its supporters were jailed in the run-up to last year's elections.

But Mr Bazi-Katare says those serving sentences planted bombs and attacked filling stations, and cannot be considered political prisoners.

"They are terrorists," he told reporters.

In April, President Gnassingbe Eyadema - who came to power after leading one of Africa's first post-colonial coups in 1967 - instructed his ministers to guarantee political freedoms as a means of improving relations with Europe.

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