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12 Oct, 2023 16:44

Wife of overthrown Gabonese president jailed

Sylvia Bongo’s imprisonment on charges of embezzling public funds is “arbitrary” and an “illegal procedure,” her lawyer has argued
Wife of overthrown Gabonese president jailed

Gabon’s new military rulers have jailed Sylvia Bongo Ondimba Valentin, the wife of President Ali Bongo, who was removed from power in a recent coup. The deposed first lady was imprisoned on Wednesday after being accused of money laundering and forgery late last month, local media reported.

According to Gabonese media, Sylvia Bongo was subjected to a committal order and detained at the central prison in the capital, Libreville, following a lengthy rehearing by an examining magistrate on Wednesday.

The former first lady, who had been under house arrest since the military coup on August 30, was charged with embezzlement of public funds, her lawyer, Francois Zimeray, told French outlet AFP on Thursday.

Zimeray called the decision to imprison her “arbitrary” and “illegal.”

Ali Bongo, who had been in power for 14 years, was placed under house arrest after a group of Gabonese soldiers declared a coup and annulled the results of the country’s disputed presidential election in August. The longtime leader had been declared the winner with 64.27% of the vote, giving him a third term to rule the Central African nation after succeeding his father, Omar Bongo, who had been in power since 1967.

Last month, the new Gabonese authorities announced that the ousted president was no longer in custody and was free to leave the country.

Bongo suffered a severe stroke in October 2018, causing him to have difficulty moving his right arm and leg. The coup leaders suspected Sylvia Bongo of “manipulating” her husband, who they claimed was suffering from the effects of the stroke, and of “massively embezzling public funds” alongside certain government officials.

Her son, Noureddin Bongo Valentin, has also been charged with corruption and embezzlement by the coup leaders and has been held in pre-trial detention since August.

Sylvia Bongo denied all of the allegations against her and claimed she was not of Gabonese nationality when she appeared before judges on Wednesday, Gabon Review reported.

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