Togo detains Kodjo, Ex-Prime Minister

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Togo briefly detained former prime minister and opposition figure Agbeyome Kodjo Tuesday over protests held last week, the latest in a series of such arrests, officials said.

Kodjo was taken in for questioning and released later in the day in connection with an investigation into alleged violence committed during the protests, a statement from prosecutors said.

“… One of the signatories to the declaration involving the holding of the protests, Agbeyome Kodjo, was detained today by the gendarmerie,” the statement said.

“He was questioned like other previously detained organisers and immediately released.”

The statement said his questioning came “as part of an investigation opened following deliberate violence, breaches to public order, destruction and damage following protests organised for June 12, 13 and 14 …”

A coalition of opposition parties and civil society groups, Let’s Save Togo, had earlier announced his detention, saying police smashed in the door at his home and took him away.

Kodjo was prime minister from 2000 to 2002 under General Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled Togo for 38 years with an iron fist until his death in 2005. He was also a former president of the National Assembly.

Security forces in Togo had already detained three protest leaders and 53 others over demonstrations last week. The three protest leaders, including the coordinator of Let’s Save Togo, were released on Sunday night.

Another march was planned for Tuesday, but security forces occupied the protest area. A government source said protest organisers had not followed the proper administrative steps to gain permission for the march.

Following last week’s arrests, prosecutors had issued a statement alleging “deliberate violence, destruction and damage were committed against individuals and public and private goods” during the demonstrations.

On Thursday, security forces had also taken over the area where a third day of protests that had drawn thousands was to be held after police fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators the previous day.

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Several thousand had gathered for protests in the capital Lome on June 12 and 13 over changes to the electoral law opposition members say the governing party forced through in a country led by the same family for more than four decades.

Security forces broke up the demonstration on June 13 with tear gas, and the opposition claimed 119 people were wounded over the two days.

Security Minister Colonel Gnama Latta has said that 22 policemen were injured when protesters hurled missiles at them and erected barricades in certain districts.

The protests have come ahead of parliamentary polls due in October.

They were organised against the adoption by the National Assembly of modifications to the electoral law, including one increasing the number of deputies in the next legislature by 10 to 91.

While the polls are expected to be held in October, no precise date has been set. Let’s Save Togo has argued more time was needed for reforms to be carried out before the vote.

On Friday, France condemned the “violence” in Togo and urged measures to ensure transparent and peaceful elections.

Kodjo has previously been arrested in Togo. After being removed as prime minister, he left the country for France, while Togolese authorities accused him of embezzlement during his time as head of the Lome port.

When he returned to Lome in 2005, he was arrested and jailed for more than a month before being released.

Togo, a West African nation of some six million people, has been led by the same family for more than four decades.

Following Gnassingbe Eyadema’s death, the military installed his son Faure Gnassingbe as president. He later won elections in 2005 and 2010

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