Guinea court frees activists critical of junta

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A Guinean judge on Friday found three political leaders not guilty of contempt of court over comments they had posted on social media criticising the prosecutor's office and the military-appointed parliament.

The defendants -- leaders of an influential political and civil society coalition, whose arrest Tuesday prompted two days of violent protests -- were released Friday following a trial in Dixinn, a suburb of the capital Conakry.

Mamadou Billo Bah, rapper Alpha Midiaou Bah also known as Djanii Alfa, and Oumar Sylla are members of the National Front for the Defence of the Constitution (FNDC).

They were seized Tuesday during a press conference.

Sylla, also known as Fonike Mengue, and Bah were beaten and had their clothes torn by police officers, AFP witnessed.

The three were charged with "contempt of court and public injury."

The prosecutor of the Conakry Court of Appeal, Alphonse Richard Wright, on Tuesday accused Sylla and Bah of "producing and disseminating through a computer system insulting remarks" against the junta-appointed parliament, the National Transitional Council (CNT).

The rapper, Alfa, had recently criticised comments made by the president of the CNT, before being threatened with arrest by the prosecutor, according to his lawyer.

On Friday, the prosecution told the defendants they were "sullying the country's image on social media" but requested a dismissal of the case and the release of the defendents.

There has been widespread political condemnation of their heavy-handed arrests, which sparked protests in Conakry from Tuesday to Thursday in which 17 police officers were injured, according to the police.

Demonstrators burned tyres, set up barricades, knocked over bins and threw projectiles at the police, who tried to disperse them with tear gas.

The protests were among the first against the administration of military ruler Mamady Doumbouya, who took power after a coup in September.

The FNDC coalition had previously been vocal against former president Alpha Conde, who was overthrown in the coup.

The junta in May banned any public demonstrations that could be construed as threatening public order.

The FNDC had initially called protests for June 23 but indicated they were prepared to give the transitional government a "chance" to set a proposed dialogue in motion.

However, their patience snapped after a meeting with the authorities, which the FNDC slammed as a "parody."

Doumbouya has pledged to hand over power to elected civilians within three years.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) rejected this timeline at a meeting on July 3 but did not announce new sanctions.

Guinea is currently suspended from the bodies of the 15-nation bloc.

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