Togo bishops decry arrest of opposition leader

CNA Staff, Apr 24, 2020 / 11:31 am (CNA).- The bishops of Togo called for peace and respect for the rights of citizens after the violent arrest of an opposition leader from his home on Tuesday.

“[E]very citizen has the right and duty to express his/her disapproval in the face of manifest injustice and oppression,” the Catholic bishops of Togo said in a statement, according to English Africa Service.

“The physical violence and other inhuman and degrading treatment inflicted on citizens on this occasion is, therefore, a negation of their rights and freedoms…the Conference of Bishops denounces and condemns them, and calls on authorities to exercise restraint.”

In their statement, the bishops said they were dismayed to learn that opposition leader Agbeyome Kodjo had been arrested at his home this week, “in circumstances of brutality and violence perpetrated by the Defence and Security Forces.”

News reports indicated that police had broken into Kodjo’s home to arrest him for failing to appear before the nation’s intelligence police force. The opposition leader previously served as prime minister of the country, but his diplomatic immunity was removed last month by Parliament.

Kodjo, who heads the Patriotic Movement for Democracy and Development, came in a distant second to incumbent President Faure Gnassingbé Eyadéma in the nation’s February presidential elections.

Kodjo called the results a farce and declared himself the rightful president of the country. He said his calculations showed that he had received some 60% of the nation’s votes, while official tallies put him at about 18%.

Gnassingbé has been president of Togo since 2005 and is entering his fourth term. His father previously ruled the country after a 1967 coup.

Togo has seen political instability and widespread poverty in recent years. Protests in 2017 called for the resignation of Gnassingbé and resulted in harsh crackdowns.

Last month, 90-year-old Archbishop emeritus Philippe Fanoko Kpodzro of Lome was placed under house arrest briefly, after he encouraged protests following the presidential election.

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