Gabon / Misappropriated public assets case / Gabonese authorities arrest civil society activists

Gabon / Misappropriated public assets case /  Gabonese authorities arrest civil society activists

LIBREVILLE, Gabon, January 3, 2009/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Transparency-International (France) and Sherpa are gravely concerned about the arrest in Libreville, Gabon, of Gregory Ngbwa Mintsa, a civil plaintiff in a case filed in France denouncing the alleged embezzlement of public funds in Gabon.

On 2 December 2008, Gregory Ngbwa Mintsa and Transparency International (France) lodged a complaint calling for an investigation into how a large volume of assets such as real estate and automobiles, have been acquired in France by three foreign heads of state and their family members, including the President of Gabon, Omar Bongo Ondimba.

Gregory Ngbwa Mintsa was arrested at his home early on the morning of 31 December, 2008. To date, he has not had access to his attorney or his family. The official reason for his detention remains unclear.

Ngbwa Mintsa has faced intimidation in the past due to the civil complaint. His arrest coincides with the detention of two other civil society leaders: Marc Ona, coordinator of the “Publish What You Pay” coalition in Gabon, which calls for more transparent management of Gabon’s oil weath, and Georges Mpaga, President of the Gabonese civil society network for good governance (ROLBG). All those arrested are involved in fighting corruption in Gabon.

It appears that the arrest of Gregory Ngbwa Mintsa is the culmination of a series of attempts to intimidate him, and could be linked to his forming part of the legal complaint for damages in the misappropriated public assets case filed in December in France.

Sherpa and TI France are calling for the immediate release of Gregory Ngbwa Mintsa and the other anti-corruption campaigners. All efforts are being made to ensure that the detainees have adequate legal support.

Both organisations further urge the French government to immediately request that the Gabonese authorities ensure that a due process of law is followed and that Gabon’s commitments to uphold human rights are respected.

SOURCE : Transparency-International