Lawyers for Ali Bongo’s ex-right-hand man warn about his health in prison

Paris (AFP) – The lawyers of the Franco-Gabonese Brice Laccruche Alihanga, deposed right-hand man of Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba, assured Tuesday that they had written to President Emmanuel Macron to alert him to the “degraded” health of their client, sentenced to five years’ imprisonment in Libreville.

Me Anges Kevin Nzigou (Libreville) and Dominique Inchauspé (Paris) “have just seized Mr. Emmanuel Macron directly”, affirming that their client “seems to be suffering from cancer that the local authorities are reluctant to take care of”, write the lawyers in a statement.

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Appointed director of the presidential cabinet in 2017, Mr. Laccruche had become the real strong man of Gabonese power during President Bongo’s long convalescence after a stroke in October 2018. To the point that the opposition, but also caciques of the presidential party , were moved by an attempt to seize power in the absence of the Gabonese head of state.

In November 2019, shortly after Mr. Bongo’s return to the forefront of the political scene, Mr. Laccruche was dismissed from the presidency before being arrested in December in a vast anti-corruption operation called “Scorpion” and also targeting ministers and senior officials close to him.

Charged with several counts of alleged embezzlement of public funds, for tens of millions of francs, he was first sentenced in October 2021, during a trial at first instance, to five years in prison for falsifying administrative documents. in order to obtain Gabonese nationality.

Denouncing a “totalitarian drift” of power, the lawyers accuse Libreville of neglecting the state of health of Mr. Laccruche and of “mistreating a prisoner”.

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The Gabonese Ministry of Justice immediately retorted in a written response to AFP that initial medical examinations did not make it possible to “determine” whether Mr. Laccruche suffered from cancer. And that he was offered on May 5, in a military hospital in Libreville, “in the presence of a representative of the Consulate General of France”, additional examinations “which would make it possible to have more decisive elements”, examinations that Mr. Laccruche “refused to perform”.

As he “stubbornly refused”, according to the ministry, “further blood tests despite repeated requests from doctors at the central prison” in Libreville where he has been detained for 30 months, also awaiting a forthcoming trial.

For their part, the detainee’s lawyers also criticize “the Gabonese authorities (who) refuse to respond to the requests of French justice investigating the arbitrary detention of Mr. Laccruche”, as part of a judicial investigation opened in Paris in 2020 and also relating to the detention of his brother Grégory.

They recall that the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the UN Human Rights Council had estimated at the end of 2020 that the detention of the Laccruche brothers and three other people was “arbitrary”.

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