Amnesty slams Equatorial Guinea ahead of AU summit

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Amnesty International on Monday accused Equitorial Guinea of a clampdown on freedom of expression ahead of an African Union summit being held in the country this month.

The rights group says political opponents of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema and around 100 students have been arrested and detained in recent months.

Amnesty said the arrests appeared to be "a pre-emptive measure to prevent any demonstrations during the summit".

"The authorities in Equatorial Guinea must end this deeply alarming wave of arrests, torture and ill-treatment of people merely exercising their right to freedom of expression," said Tawanda Hondora, Amnesty's deputy director.

"President Obiang's government is already among the worst human rights abusers in Africa and the continuing persecution of political opponents is deplorable," Hondora added in a statement.

Obiang, who has ruled Equatorial Guinea with an iron fist since seizing power in a 1979 coup, was named the AU's new chairman at a summit in Addis Ababa in January.

Earlier this month he rejected suggestions there were human rights violations in Equatorial Guinea and noted that he had signed an agreement with the International Committee of the Red Cross to monitor the country's rights record.

The full AU summit takes place in a city built especially for the occasion near Equitorial Guinea's capital Malabo from June 29 to July 1. It will be preceded by six days of meetings.

© 2011 AFP

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