Rights watchdogs sound alarm over E.Guinea cartoonist
Human rights groups on Thursday called for the release of a cartoonist in Equatorial Guinea, Ramon Esono Ebale, who has been held by the authorities for two months.
Ebale has been living abroad since 2011 but was arrested on September 16 while on a trip to the country to renew his passport, Amnesty International said.
"Police then interrogated Mr. Ebale about his drawings of, and blog posts about members of the Equatoguinean leadership," it said in an open letter calling for his release.
The letter was co-signed by Human Rights Watch, PEN International Amnesty International, Reporters without Borders and Transparency International among others.
On September 19, state television said Ebale had been arrested for "money-laundering and counterfeiting" after fake banknotes to the value of a million CFA francs (about 1,500 euros, $1,700) were found at his residence.
The cartoonist's lawyer, Angel Obama Obiang, told AFP that his client had not been charged with any crime since his detention.
According to a US-based group, EG Justice, Ebale is being persecuted for a graphic novel called "La Pesadilla d'Obi" published in May 2016.
Seen by AFP, the work -- whose title is roughly translatable as "Obiang's Nightmare" -- portrays President Teodoro Obiang Nguema as an ordinary citizen, struggling with lack of electricity, medical care, poor education and clamps on freedom of expression.
Earlier this month, the organisation Cartoonists Rights Network International honoured Ebale with its 2017 "Courage in Editorial Cartooning" award.
Three musicians have also been arrested in Equatorial Guinea in the last three months before being released without charge.
Equatorial Guinea, a former Spanish colony which borders Cameroon and Gabon, is one of sub-Sahara's biggest oil producers but a large proportion of the 1.2 million population still lives in poverty.
Obiang has ruled the country with an iron fist since August 1979 -- a record of longevity in Africa.
On October 27, his son Teodorin Obiang, was given a three-year suspended jail term in Paris and fined 30 million euros for embezzlement, money laundering, corruption and abuse of trust.