Congo opposition leader returns to Brazzaville after treatment in Turkey

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Brazzaville. Republic of Congo opposition leader Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko returned to Brazzaville on Sunday after receiving medical care in Turkey for the past month, his lawyer told AFP.
The 73-year-old general, who stood against hardline President Denis Sassou Nguesso in elections in 2016, was jailed for 20 years in 2019 on charges of undermining state security and illegal possession of weapons and ammunition.
“General Mokoko has returned from Turkey and has been taken to the military hospital in Brazzaville where I was able to see him,” lawyer Yvon Eric Ibouanga said.
“He is in good shape but must undergo regular exercises” due to muscle ache, Ibouanga told AFP, adding that a formal request for Mokoko’s release would be lodged in the coming days.
A prison source said he would be returned to his cell after being checked by doctors.
On July 2 Mokoko was first admitted to the military hospital due to “overall fatigue and loss of appetite”.
The authorities allowed him to fly to Ankara on July 30, following weeks of negotiations.
“To send General Mokoko to Turkey for treatment is to export Brazzaville Prison to Ankara…. Turkey is not a benchmark of human rights,” Paulin Makaya, head of a party called United for Congo, said at the time.
Mokoko, a former chief of staff, placed third in the March 2016 elections, picking up less than 14 percent in the first round of the vote, while Sassou Nguesso was controversially declared outright winner.
The Republic of Congo, also called Congo-Brazzaville, is an oil-rich but also poverty-stricken neighbour of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Sassou Nguesso, 76, has cumulatively spent 35 years in power since he first became president in 1979.
He is running for re-election in the next presidential ballot, due next March.
Nguesso said in May that he had “no reason” to free political opponents like Mokoko, speaking of the need not to let prisoners out while the COVID-19 pandemic was ongoing.


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