Dozens of opponents of the government were held who appeared to be prisoners of conscience. Among them were one student and three journalists who received prison terms and were imprisoned; dozens of other students were detained for short periods and at least five were held without trial for four months. Three people were sentenced to death but there were no executions. There was political unrest throughout the year. Dozens of students and several journalists were imprisoned in an apparent attempt to stifle opposition to the government of President Henri Konan Bédié in the run-up to presidential and legislative elections scheduled to take place in 1995. In particular, the authorities targeted the Fédération estudiantine et scolaire de Côte d'Ivoire (FESCI), the Ivorian Federation of Students and School Pupils, which organized protests calling for improvements in conditions for students. Some fesci leaders were arrested; others went into hiding to avoid arrest. The government claimed that FESCI had been banned in 1991, but the student organization maintained that the banning decree did not have legal force, and pointed out that it had been allowed to participate in public debate with the government over the previous two years. In March the police arrested several FESCI members at the University of Bouaké (290 kilometres north of the capital, Abidjan) after a peaceful demonstration became violent when the security forces intervened. Eugène Gonthy, a FESCI activist, was charged with inciting violence and sentenced to one year's imprisonment although the prosecution produced no evidence of his involvement in any acts of violence. His sentence was doubled on appeal, but he was provisionally released in August. At least five other students charged with inciting violence remained in detention without trial for four months; they were probably prisoners of conscience. The imprisonment of Eugène Gonthy provoked protests at the University of Cocody in Abidjan. In May at least 25 FESCI members, including Guirao Blé, FESCI Deputy Secretary General, were held incommunicado for two weeks after a peaceful meeting was broken up by the security forces. All the students were released on 31 May after apologizing on television; they had been threatened with continued detention if they did not apologize publicly. Six journalists two of whom were tried twice on separate charges were convicted, although in three cases the sentences were not enforced. The imprisoned journalists were prisoners of conscience. In February Hamed Bakayoko, director of the weekly newspaper Le Patriote, was charged with insulting the head of state. An unsigned article in his newspaper had praised the former Prime Minister, Alassane Ouattara, who had challenged President Bédié's accession to power following the death of President Houphouët-Boigny. Hamed Bakayoko was sentenced to one year's imprisonment but was provisionally released in July, apparently after apologizing to President Bédié. In March Aboudramane Sangaré, the Deputy Secretary General of the main opposition party, the Front populaire ivoirien (FPI), Ivorian Popular Front, and the director of the newspaper La Voie, was sentenced to one year's imprisonment together with four La Voie journalists. They had published an article claiming that President Bédié had asked the French Government for 10 billion CFA Francs to pay for President Houphouët-Boigny's funeral. The five men were not at any stage imprisoned, but the threat of imprisonment was apparently used in an attempt to exert pressure on the main opposition newspaper. The following month, Aboudramane Sangaré and another of the journalists convicted in March, Souleymane T. Senn, were again brought to court. They were sentenced to three years' imprisonment following the publication in La Voie of an article by Souleymane T. Senn which, without advocating the use of violence, called on government opponents to adopt more aggressive tactics in the run-up to the 1995 elections. In this case, the sentences were enforced and the two men were imprisoned. They were released in December under a general presidential amnesty. In August a Ghanaian refugee, Anuere Atta-Willie, was arrested and held without charge for seven weeks, apparently for having written a letter protesting about the harassment suffered by Ghanaian residents in Côte d'Ivoire. At least 23 Ghanaians were killed in anti-Ghanaian violence in Abidjan following crowd violence which occurred at a football match in Ghana in November 1993. Anuere Atta-Willie was probably a prisoner of conscience and was released after the intervention of the Ligue ivoirienne des droits de l'homme, Ivorian Human Rights League. In October a Cameroonian student, Jean-Claude Um Mahop, was detained for three weeks at the Direction de la sécurité du territoire (DST), National Security Headquarters, because he was carrying documents concerning a Cameroonian student organization. He appeared to be a prisoner of conscience and was released without charge. In July, three men convicted of murder were sentenced to death. No executions were carried out. In July Amnesty International published a report, Côte d'Ivoire: Freedom of expression and association threatened, in which it appealed for the release of FESCI member Eugène Gonthy and the three imprisoned journalists whom it considered to be prisoners of conscience. The organization also stressed that three other journalists sentenced to terms of imprisonment in March would be prisoners of conscience if they were required to serve their sentences. No response was received from the government but all the prisoners of conscience named in the report were released before the end of the year.
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