- A French journalist had been arrested in the Comoran capital, Moroni, charged with "attempting a coup". Few days after arriving Grande Comore, the TV reporter was detained together with an opposition leader under confusing circumstances.
The Paris-based media watchdogs Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) today voiced concern over the fate of French journalist Morad Aït-Habbouche, who was arrested and detained in the Comoran capital, yesterday 22 September. Mr Aït-Habbouche also saw his filming equipment confiscated. The journalist has since been charged with "attempting a coup".
- We do not understand this charge, RSF said in a short statement. "The journalist was on assignment in the Comoros islands. The authorities must provide more information about this matter and release the journalist without delay," the group added.
Mr Aït-Habbouche, a French journalist who was on assignment for 'Canal Plus' television, was arrested at his Moroni hotel on 22 September and taken to a local police station.
A few hours later, Said Larifou, a lawyer who heads an opposition party (the Rassemblement pour une initiative de développement avec une jeunesse avertie, Ridja), was also detained at the police station after he went to inquire about the reporter's arrest.
According to the Pana news agency, Comoros State Prosecutor Idi Bazia today said that Mr Aït-Habbouche, Mr Larifou and other unidentified persons were charged with "attempting a coup."
Mr Aït-Habbouche is a journalist of great fame in France and has won international prices for his work as a war reporter. His 1997 documentary 'Congo, the autopsy of a war' brought him two prices at the Bayeux festival.
Mr Larifou, on the other hand, has become one of the most active opposition leaders of the island Grande Comore during this year. He stood candidate at last year's presidential elections on the autonomous island, but lost out to another opposition candidate.
Only last week, Mr Larifou and his opposition Ridja party organised a protest march in Mbeni - a town on the eastern coast of Gran Comore - gathering over 1,500 persons. Mr Larifou there made statements against both the local government and the Comoro Union government, criticising the deadlock between them over the authority to rule on the island.
It still remains uncertain whether the arrest order against opposition leader Larifou was made by the local authorities of Grande Comore or by the Comoro Union government of General Assoumani Azali.
The Comoros island state has been plagued by political instability since independence from France in 1975. More than 20 coups or attempted takeovers have taken place in less than 30 years. French mercenary Colonel Bob Denard has participated in several of these coup attempts, to the great frustration of Comoran and French authorities.
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