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3 men detained for protesting E. Guinea soccer tournament

January 29, 2015

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Human rights groups demanded Thursday that Equatorial Guinea free three men allegedly detained for protesting the country’s hosting of Africa’s premier soccer championship while half the population has no access to clean water.

Amnesty International and rights groups from Spain, Portugal and the United States called the three prisoners of conscience.

They urged the government to protect them from the torture for which the West African nation’s prisons are notorious, and to allow them adequate access to lawyers, their families and health care.

Political activist Celestino Okenve was arrested Jan. 14 for distributing leaflets calling for a boycott of the African Cup of Nations, which started Jan. 17 and lasts three weeks. Two others were arrested in connection with the leaflets.

They said the country’s ruler for 35 years, President Teodoro Obiang, was wasting money while people suffer. Equatorial Guinea has the highest per capita income in Africa but its oil money benefits only a small elite and Obiang stifles the opposition.

“Exercising freedom of expression should never be the basis for imprisonment,” Amnesty’s Steve Cockburn said in the statement.