A Gabonese opponent, Landry Amiang Washington, condemned in particular for « incitement to revolt » and « contempt » of the head of state, announced Wednesday to the AFP his release in Libreville, after more than three years in prison.
Mr. Washington, also of American nationality, was arrested in the Gabonese capital on August 12, 2016 when he alighted from a plane from Miami, where he lived, accused of “inciting revolt” and outraged the president Ali Bongo Ondimba, whose regime he criticized almost daily on social networks.
« I was released last night pending a hearing in the court of appeal on Monday, » Washington told AFP by phone.
Arrested two weeks before the 2016 presidential election which had re-elected Mr. Bongo for a second term in a very tight ballot and hotly contested by the opposition, Mr. Washington had only been sentenced to three years in prison on the 5th last April, after a long pre-trial detention which therefore covered this sentence.
But the prosecution having appealed, he has been kept in detention ever since. « Illegal detention », argued Mr. Washington and one of his lawyers, Jean-Paul Moumbembé, in a telephone interview with AFP, because, according to the latter, « the law requires the release of the accused if he is not tried within two months of the appeal ”.
The prosecution had appealed on April 15 because it believed the sentence to three years in prison was too light. « So I should have been released on June 15, » said Washington.
“He will appear on Monday as a free man”
Moumbembé said the Defense Court of Appeal on Monday ordered the « statutory release » of Mr. Washington. « It is a victory for us because he will appear as a free man on Monday, » said the lawyer.
Asserting that he is « in good health » but that he must undergo medical examinations, Mr. Washington said he was « combative and determined to defend Monday » his « freedom of expression ». « I am fighting for justice, the rule of law and democracy, » he said.
The Libreville Court of Appeal will have to rule on the request of the public prosecutor’s office to retry him for « incitement to revolt (…), disturbance of public peace and contempt of the President of the Republic », according to Moumbembé.
Ali Bongo Ondimba was elected in 2009, succeeding his late father, Omar Bongo, who had ruled Gabon, an oil-rich central African state, for almost 42 years.