Three civil society figures in Guinea who have been imprisoned for several months were released Wednesday in Conakry, the same day seven people were killed during a demonstration organized to demand, among other things, their release.
The leaders of the National Front for the Defense of the Constitution (FNDC) Oumar Sylla, alias Foniké Mangué, Ibrahima Diallo and Mamadou Billo Bah, "came out of prison at 22:30 (GMT and local). They are completely free," Abdoulaye Oumou Sow, head of communications for the FNDC, a group that challenges the ruling junta in Guinea, told AFP.
The collective of lawyers defending Mr. Sylla, Mr. Diallo and Mr. Bah "has just learned of the release of our clients without procedure, without condition," said one of its members, Mr. Salifou Béavogui, in a statement sent to AFP.
Mr. Béavogui denounced that for several months "citizens have been deprived of their freedom without trial", and "regrets that all the time that this arbitrary detention lasted, all the requests regularly introduced (by their defense) were systematically rejected without the least examination on their relevance".
Foniké Mangué and Ibrahima Diallo have been detained since July 2022, and Mamadou Billo Bah since January 2023. It was not immediately possible to know the reasons given by the courts for their release.
- Seven killed in protest -
The three detainees were released from prison on the same day that a collective of which the FNDC is a member -which has been dissolved by the junta- organized demonstrations in Conakry and the provinces to demand their release and that of other detainees, among other demands.
According to a report by the opposition Forces Vives de Guinée, seven people were killed and 32 wounded by bullets in the capital during the demonstration.
The Guinean authorities, contacted by AFP on Wednesday evening to confirm or deny this toll, could not be reached.
The release of the three men as well as all prisoners described as political by the opposition is one of the main demands of the Forces Vives de Guinée.
They are also demanding the opening of a dialogue for the rapid return of civilians to power, as well as the lifting of the ban on all demonstrations introduced by the junta in 2022.
- Religious mediation -
The three detainees had refused on Monday to be released in exchange for their commitment to renounce militancy, according to the lawyers' collective that defends them. And this while religious leaders have been working for weeks to renew the threads of dialogue between the junta and the opposition.
The religious mediation team met with government representatives on Monday and assured them that, even in the absence of the opposition, "the lines (had) moved" and that the authorities were ready to release the three prisoners, according to one of the members of the delegation, Anglican bishop Jacques Boston.
The mediation team then went to the Conakry prison.
It "conveyed the message that the government had agreed to the request for release under judicial supervision of the detainees in exchange for a guarantee, from now on, that they would not continue their civic struggle, in particular the organization of peaceful demonstrations," the lawyers' collective reported in a statement received by AFP on Tuesday.
But the prisoners "reject any offer of release under judicial supervision and any commitment to renounce their civic struggle," it said. "They demand the immediate opening of their trial (...) failing that, their release.
Guinea has been ruled since 2021 by a junta that took power in a coup. Under international pressure, the military agreed to hand over power to elected civilians by the end of 2024.
Several opposition leaders were arrested or prosecuted under the junta.