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Page last updated at 22:27 GMT, Thursday, 30 April 2009 23:27 UK

Charges against Madagascar 'PM'

Manandafy Rakotonirina at rally on 16 April
Manandafy Rakotonirina's relatives say they don't know where he is being held

The man appointed as prime minister by Madagascar's ousted President Marc Ravalomanana has been charged with threatening the security of the state.

Manandafy Rakotonirina, 70, was seized by heavily-armed soldiers and police from a five-star hotel in the capital, Antananarivo, on Wednesday.

He was named PM by Mr Ravalomanana this week, even though he was ousted from power in March by Andry Rajoelina.

The army-backed takeover has been widely condemned as a coup d'etat.

Mr Rakotonirina was also charged with illegitimately declaring himself prime minister, instigating the destruction of property and illegal possession of firearms.

Mr Rakotonirina is expected to appear in court along with eight others in the coming days, says the BBC's Jonny Hogg in Antananarivo.

Violent protests

Mr Ravalomanana is now in exile in Swaziland, but Mr Rajoelina's administration accuses him and his supporters of being behind recent violent protests in the capital, in which at least two people died.

On Wednesday, a group of around 20 soldiers and police - some hooded - stormed the Carlton hotel in central Antananarivo where Mr Rakotonirina had set up his headquarters.

A spokeswoman for Mr Rajoelina's office told AFP news agency that Mr Rakotonirina was "the mastermind of last week's violence" and an arrest warrant had been issued against him.

The seizure of Mr Rakotonirina - in full public view - is an escalation of the aggressive tactics used by forces loyal to the current administration, our correspondent says.

The head of a women's movement opposed to the government was also arrested.

Our correspondent says there are increasing suggestions that sections of Madagascar's armed forces are taking unilateral action to stamp out what they see as potential political threats.



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