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G.Bissau ex-military chief released from prison

by Staff Writers
Bissau (AFP) Dec 23, 2010
The former military chief in Guinea-Bissau has been released after eight months in prison along with six other officers, days after the EU warned of possible sanctions against the west African state.

"I was released last night on the orders of the army chief who had acted upon the request of the president and the government," Rear-Admiral Jose Zamora Induta told AFP by telephone Thursday.

"I have returned to my home in Bissau. I am well," he added.

Induta was arrested by General Antonio Indjai, his deputy, on April 1, while head of government Carlos Gomes Junior received death threats from soldiers loyal to Indjaj.

Indjai, who accused Induta of abuse of power and using large sums of money for military rations for his own benefit, was made head of the armed forces three months later, amid international criticism.

The defence ministry confirmed Thursday that Induta had been freed, along with Colonel Samba Diallo, who was also arrested on April 1.

Also released were five officers arrested following a March 2009 bomb attack bomb attack that killed the then armed forces chief, General Batista Tagme Na Wai.

Wai's assassination led to a revenge attack in which Guinea-Bissau's president Bernardo Joao Vieira died.

Induta's release came two days after the European Commission in Brussels threatened to suspend some development aid as it called for "the end of illegal detentions and impunity" in Guinea Bissau.

The EU has budgeted for some 120 million euros (157 million dollars) in aid for Bissau to 2013.

But a military source told AFP that Induta's release was "not decided under pressure" but for humanitarian reasons and that the ex-military chief "remained under house arrest and is not free to move about."

Guinea-Bissau has been plagued by coups since independence from Portugal in 1974 and instability has attracted South American drug cartels that use the country as a transit point to Europe.

The US embassy, which has pointed the finger at senior military and government officials for involvement in drug-running, welcomed the release of the officers.

It said they were in line with US calls on the government to respect the constitution and the rule of law, it said.

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