France holds Comoros rebel pending asylum decision

Comorian rebel leader Mohamed Bacar was put in military custody on the French island of Reunion on Saturday pending a decision on whether to deport him after charges against him were dropped, authorities said.

Bacar fled the Indian Ocean island of Anjouan this week when Comorian and African Union troops toppled his renegade government. He had faced charges of illegally entering French territory and importing weapons, but they were withdrawn on technical grounds.

Bacar and 22 soldiers first fled to the French island of Mayotte, but his presence there provoked riots and he was transferred on Thursday to the larger island of Reunion and immediately placed in police detention.

Court officials said the case against Bacar and the soldiers was withdrawn because of a breach in the rules governing his initial period of detention.

The office of the Reunion representative of the Paris government said it had issued an expulsion order but this was on hold pending a decision on Bacar’s request for asylum. A decision is due in ”several days,” a statement said.

Comoros has demanded France send Bacar back to face trial, but Reunion state prosecutor Francois Muguet said on Friday he had not been informed of any formal international arrest warrant from the Comorian authorities.

Relations between the two countries are fraught, and Comoros has long been suspicious of what it sees as French meddling in its former colony, which became independent in 1975.

French Overseas Territories Minister Yves Jego has said France will consider any request for asylum, but indicated that Bacar and the soldiers with him were likely to be deported. – Reuters

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