Gabon parties file suit against Transparency International

15th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Five associations in Gabon on Monday filed a suit against Transparency International (TI), accusing the watchdog group of defamation against the late president Omar Bongo Ondimba, who died in 2009.

The suit targets the French branch of the Berlin-based TI for "defamatory and calumnious statements against the late president Omar Bongo Ondimba, incitement to unrest and revolt by the Gabonese by way of the international media," according to a copy of the case shown to journalists by lawyer Ferdinand Abena Bidzo'o.

TI France in December 2008 lodged a complaint in Paris concerning what it called the "ill-gotten gains" of three African leaders, asking for a judicial probe into the French property owned by Bongo and Presidents Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of Congo and Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea.

The counter-plaintiffs include five Gabonese associations and movements led by Cashbo, which presents itself as "a political association of support for the actions of the authorities in place", including serving President Ali Bongo Ondimba, the son of Omar Bongo.

They filed their case with the state prosecutor in Libreville.

"We have a rendez-vous on (November) 23. Our suit may be rejected or not, but we shall see this through to the end," Abena Bidzo'o said.

"If the prosecutor's office in Libreville declares itself incompetent, justice will take its course. We could go to France or to Berlin, why not? Up until now, we have confidence in Gabonese justice," he added

The anti-corruption campaign group alleges that the three leaders and their relatives spent tens of millions of euros (dollars) in state funds from their countries on lavish purchases in France, including houses and cars.

France's top appeals court on November 9 authorised investigative judges to probe the corruption charges against the three African heads of state, in a ruling that was welcomed by TI but dismissed as ridiculous by Gabon's ruling Gabonese Democratic Party.

On Friday, TI announced that Gabonese journalist Gregory Ngbwa Mintsa, who served a spell in prison after co-operating with the anti-corruption group and calling for a probe, was one of its three annual Integrity Award winners.

"TI France continues to fight for the case to be investigated," the organisation said. "Whatever its outcome, Mintsa's bravery has inspired people around the globe and sets a true precedent for challenging impunity."

© 2010 AFP

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