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Côte d'Ivoire
Society | Politics | Human rights

Rights organisation calls for speedy trial for detained activist

afrol News, 25 February - The Human Rights Watch has called on Ivorian government to charge the detained civil society activist, Modeste Seri, set him free, saying continued detention violates the country’s obligations under international law.

Mr Seri was arrested in January 2008 for his alleged involvement in an attempt to overthrow the Ivorian government in December 2007.

According to a letter sent to Ivorian Justice Minister, Mamadou Koné, the international rights body has expressed concerns on the delays in the case of Mr Seri, urging the country to begin formal trial proceedings.

"Modeste Seri and all Ivorians in prolonged pretrial detention deserve to be tried without delay or freed," said Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.

The group also said Mr Seri voluntarily went to the Ivorian Territorial State Security Service on 17 January 2008, after he learned that the government was suspicious of his relationship with Ibrahim Coulibaly, an alleged plotter in a 2007 coup attempt.

He was detained and on January 28, 2008, transferred to Abidjan's central prison, according to HRW. It further stated that an investigating judge has on a few occasions questioned Mr Seri about his relationship to Mr Coulibaly, most recently in May 2008.

“Since this time, however, neither Mr Seri nor his lawyer has received any news about the status of the investigation,” the group said.

For the last nine years, Côte d'Ivoire has been racked by a social, political, and military crisis that has accelerated economic decline, deepened political and ethnic divisions, resulted in the de facto partition of the country between a government-controlled south and rebel-controlled north, and led to a scale of human rights abuses previously unseen in the nation's post-independence history.

As the leader of an Ivorian diaspora group based in the United States, and since returning to Côte d'Ivoire in 2006, Mr Seri has been a harsh critic of both the government of President Laurent Gbagbo and the New Forces rebels.

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