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Comoros opposition leaders sentenced to life with hard labour

Comoros President Assoumani has been criticised for his growing authoritarianism [Getty]

Date of publication: 17 December, 2018

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Fears of growing authoritarianism in the Comoros Islands have re-emerged after opposition leaders were given harsh sentences.

Four senior opposition leaders in Comoros have been handed life sentences with hard labour by a security court for allegedly plotting against the state.

Several other opposition figures were also jailed for plotting against the state following a two-day trial, delivered late on Saturday. 

The sentences were condemned by the opposition as "an insult to democracy".

Former vice-President Djaffar Said Ahmed Hassane, who has taken refuge in Tanzania, was among those sentenced to forced labour, while Colonel Ibrahim Salim, a former head of the army, was also jailed.

Hassane spoke out against a controversial constitutional referendum in July, intended to strengthen the powers of President Azali Assoumani.

The result cleared him to serve two mandates instead of one, which could see him rule for 11 more years.

Despite being democratically elected in 2016, Assoumani has been accused of attempting to cement his power while violent protests have been sparked against the growing authoritarianism.

The referendum also scrapped the rotation of the presidency between Comoros' three main islands, which penalised opposition-leaning Anjouan, which was next in line.

Armed rebels confronted the army for more than a week at Mutsamudu, the capital of Anjouan island

The Comoros islands - Anjouan, Grande Comore and Moheli - have endured years of grinding poverty and political turmoil, including about 20 coups or attempted coups, since independence from France in 1975.

Former Comoros President Ahmed Abdallah Mohammed Sambi was charged with graft and embezzling public money this year over the sale of the passports to Kuwait and the UAE, while the Moroni government eventually annulled the passport legislation. 

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