Authorities in the Comoros on Tuesday accused eight people, arrested last week following a controversial referendum boycotted by the opposition, of trying to organise a coup.
Prosecutor Mohamed Abdoua said the group had wanted to commit “a terrorist act” and plans to “target” specific people, including the interior minister, the finance minister and the head of the army were discovered during police searches.
The eight were arrested last week following the referendum vote which will allow President Azali Assoumani to run for another term as leader of the Indian Ocean archipelago.
Three people were released on Tuesday but five remain in detention, including the brother of the former vice president Djaffar Said Ahmed, who has recently fallen out of favour with the government.
“It is not a question of an offence but a terrorist act… these things are real, the facts are there,” Abdoua told AFP.
Police searches had seized “weapons, computers and a lot of money… and the plans,” he said.
“The banners had already been made in case of victory, and you want to say that there wasn’t a coup being prepared!,” he exclaimed.
“The investigation will determine who’s the sponsor,” he added.
Crackdown on opposition
The leader of the opposition Juwa party, former president Ahmed Abdallah Sambi, has been under house arrest for almost four months.
The party’s secretary-general Ahmed el-Barwane has been in detention since July 31 accused of assault, attempted murder and criminal conspiracy, according to Moudjahidi Abdoulbastoi, one of his lawyers.
Last week the Supreme Court confirmed the victory of the “yes” campaign in the referendum with 92.43% of the vote on a turnout of 62.71%.
The opposition had urged a boycott of the referendum, denouncing “abuses of power”.
Ahead of the poll, Interior Minister Mohamed Daoudou said opposition members would be “hunted down”.
The Comoros – a group of islands between Mozambique and Madagascar and one of the world’s poorest countries – has endured repeated coups and political turmoil since independence from France in 1975.
Assoumani, a 59-year-old former colonel, was president between 1999 and 2002, coming to power after a military coup.
He won the country’s first multi-party elections in 2002, stepping down in 2006 to hand over power democratically to Ahmed Abdallah Sambi.
He returned again as president in 2016 in an election marred by violence and allegations of voting irregularities.