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Spanish court to order arrest of Equatorial Guinea leader's son

Published 02/22/2024, 11:17 AM
Updated 02/22/2024, 11:43 AM

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's High Court has accepted an appeal by members of Equatorial Guinea's opposition and ordered a lower court to issue arrest warrants for the son of the country's president and two other officials over allegations of torture and kidnapping.

Carmelo Ovono Obiang, son of President Teodoro Obiang, and two other senior officials were accused of abducting four members of the Spain-based opposition group, the Movement for the Liberation of Equatorial Guinea Third Republic (MLGE3R), while they were on a trip to South Sudan in 2019.

In a complaint lodged with Spain's High Court in 2020, the MLGE3R alleged that the four - two of whom were Spanish citizens - were sent to Equatorial Guinea, a former Spanish colony, on a government plane and tortured, a court document showed.

One of them, Spanish citizen Julio Obama, died last year in prison in Equatorial Guinea.

A police report seen by Reuters says victims' testimonies and the statements of protected witnesses present "compelling evidence" of kidnapping and torture.

A spokesperson for the Equatorial Guinea government did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The government has previously rejected the allegations as false.

President Obiang has ruled the small West African nation for 44 years and is the world's longest-serving president.

Last year, Spanish High Court judge Santiago Pedraz, charged with investigating the case, called Obiang and the other two officials to testify but they did not appear.

The Criminal Chamber of the High Court, the judicial body above Pedraz, has now ordered him to issue arrest warrants, a document dated on Feb. 19 showed.

"The defendants are in rebellion, having ignored the requests made by the magistrate to appear in court to give evidence as investigated persons, despite having been given the opportunity to testify by video conference," the court said in a statement on Thursday.

In January, Judge Pedraz decided to close the case, saying Equatorial Guinea's Supreme Court of Justice was conducting its own investigation. An appeal on that decision is still pending.

Rights groups accuse Obiang of a tenure marked by torture of political opponents, sham elections and corruption. He denies such charges.

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