Addis Ababa – The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) called on Friday for the “immediate and unconditional release” of opposition party members arrested last month in the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti.
Police detained 19 members of the Movement for Democratic Renewal and Development (MRD) in a move the Paris-based rights group said was a sign of the growing authoritarianism of President Ismail Omar Guelleh’s government.
While 10 people were later released without being charged, nine were accused of “illegal banking activity”, which the FIDH said was related to a microcredit programme operated by the party that provided business financing to about 30 people.
Five people were also charged with “illegal political activities” and incarcerated in the country’s main prison.
The FIDH said their attorney was not allowed to visit them in detention and was threatened with arrest during a meeting at the prosecutor’s office.
“Political repression has once more befallen Djibouti, where arrests of political opponents are now the norm,” FIDH Vice-President Drissa Traore said in the statement. “The continued degradation of human rights remains a source of concern for the stability of the country.”
Guelleh has held power for 18 years in the country, strategically positioned on the Red Sea and home to several foreign military bases.
He won a fourth term in April 2016 with more than 86% of the vote in an election that opposition parties denounced as an “electoral masquerade”.