By Emmanuel Nduka
Madagascar will begin on Monday for 21 people accused of planning a coup d’etat, including two French men and their wives.
Paul Rafanoharana, Philippe Francois and their wives were arrested on July 20, and are accused of endangering the security of the state, criminal conspiracy and a plot to assassinate President Andry Rajoelina.
The Chief Prosecutor accused them of “putting together a plan to eliminate or neutralise various Malagasy public figures including the head of state”, but they all deny their involvement.
Together with 17 other accused, the four are set to appear at the Anosy courthouse in Madagascar’s capital Antananarivo.
While it is not yet clear whether journalists will be allowed to attend the public hearing, which defence lawyers said should last three or four days, defendant Rafanoharana, who is French-Malagasy, is a former adviser to the President.
Meanwhile Francois, a former colonel in the French army, ran an investment company in Madagascar called Tsarafirst. The two men were partners for a short time in the business.
Arlette Rafanomadio, defending Rafanoharana and his wife, told AFP that the hearing is “an unfair trial”.
“We haven’t had enough time to prepare our defence strategy and access to our clients has been difficult,” she complained.