Chadian fears fellow opposition leader is dead

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Chadian opposition leader Ngarlejy Yorongar fears a fellow opponent of the regime was beaten to death in custody.

  PARIS, March 7, 2008  - Chadian opposition leader Ngarlejy Yorongar,
who took refuge in France Thursday following a crackdown in his home country,
said he feared a fellow opponent of the regime was beaten to death in custody.
   Yorongar, who surfaced on Monday in Cameroon after going missing in the
wake of a failed rebel attack on the Chadian capital a month ago, flew into
Paris after French authorities offered him political asylum.
   Speaking to reporters at the airport, he said he was "very unwell".
   "I am worried I may have been poisoned. My main concern now is to get
medical care," he said.
   Yorongar added that he had not so far applied for asylum in France: "It is
not time for that yet."
   He said opposition coalition spokesman Ibni Oumar Mahamat Saleh was
detained alongside him in Chad last month and was severely beaten in custody,
"punched, kicked and beaten with rifle butts."
   "Between February 4 and 6, I believe that he died, unless there was a
miracle," Yorongar said. "Unless he was taken to a secret hospital, but given
the state they put him in, as far as I'm concerned he is dead."
   "I ask France to do everything for light to be shed" on his disappearance,
he said.
   Chad's European partners and rights groups have voiced concern for Saleh,
whose family are still without news of him.
   "We have no sign, no clue. We are very worried," said one of his cousins,
contacted by AFP in Ndjamena.
   Yorongar says he was arrested in the Chadian capital on February 3 by
President Idriss Deby Itno's guard and held in secret detention, before
managing to flee to neighbouring Cameroon.
   "The soldiers of the presidential guard seized me at my home, they beat me
up in front of my wife and children. In the car they beat me with rifle butts,
and took me to a secret prison," he told reporters.
   Both he and Saleh were reportedly taken at the same time, shortly after
three rebel groups crossed the country from bases in Sudan's Darfur region and
launched a two-day attack on Ndjamena.
   A third opposition leader arrested at the same time, former Chadian
president Lol Mahamat Choua, was later freed and is still in Ndjamena.
   He said he had not been detained with the other two.
   The three disappeared during an internationally-condemned crackdown by Deby
loyalists in the wake of the coup attempt, which was beaten back with French
military help that did not extend to direct intervention.
   During a visit last week by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Deby
announced a probe into the disappearance of the opposition leaders and the
rebel assault, but the initiative was rejected by the opposition.
   The non-armed opposition in the central African state and Chadian rebels
have criticised French support for Deby.
   Chad remains under a state of emergency until March 15, allowing for house
searches by security forces and a media crackdown.


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