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Editor arrested and released; faces high treason charges for article

(MFWA/IFEX) - Distel Amoussou, managing editor of "Panorama" daily newspaper, was arrested on the afternoon of 16 February 2006 by the intelligence branch of office of the president, for allegedly publishing false information that could destabilize the country.

He was held in custody by the Economic Crime Squad and released the next day, but is facing charges of high treason.

According to an MFWA source in Benin, Amoussou had published, in the 6 February edition of "Panorama", an article headlined "Aborted coup d'etat in the palace", which indicated that some of the president's supporters had seized the opportunity presented by the president's absence from the country while attending the inauguration of Burkinabe President Blaise Compaore, to stage a brief coup d'état aimed at prolonging the President's stay in power.

Amoussou stated that President Kerekou would be put under house arrest, the constitution and institutions of the Republic would be dissolved and a referendum would be organised to bring the President back after the coup d'etat. The "coup" would, in effect, ensure that President Kerekou is maintained in power.

The source said "Panorama" newspaper clarified that President Kerekou, who did not take kindly to the conduct of the perpetrators, secretly arrested them when he returned from Ouagadougou, to prevent mayhem in the country.

Following the publication, the police started hunting for Amoussou, who had left Benin and had entrusted the case to his lawyer. However, the police arrested and detained the Director General of "Panorama", Michel Ahonon, for five hours.

Amoussou returned on 16 February. He was charged on three counts of high treason, insulting the Head of State and publishing false news. He was released the following day but was told to prepare for a subpoena.

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