/ 12 January 2010

Madagascar opposition chief rejects arrest warrant

A senior opposition politician in Madagascar said on Tuesday that a warrant for his arrest in connection with a string of foiled bomb attacks last year was politically motivated.

Tensions are running high on the Indian Ocean island, which had been drawing increasing foreign investor interest in its oil, nickel, cobalt, gold and uranium deposits.

Fetison Andrianirina is a close ally of former President Marc Ravalomanana, who was toppled by Andry Rajoelina in a military-backed coup last March. He said he remained in the capital Antananarivo and denied receiving a police summons.

“This is a political manoeuvre to get rid of me. Right now I am at home,” Andrianirina told Reuters by telephone.

He accused 35-year-old Rajoelina of behaving like a dictator and cracking down on the opposition after the former DJ tore up a series of internationally brokered power-sharing deals.

The president looks determined to forge ahead with his own plans for elections without the backing of regional neighbours.

His administration alleged that Andrianirina, named one of two co-presidents in a now seemingly obsolete accord, was involved in a July 2009 bomb plot. At the time, Rajoelina called the failed attack an act of terrorism.

Late on Monday, Justice Minister Christine Razanamahasoa told state TV an arrest warrant was issued for Andrianirina.

“He did not react to a summons and so now we will go to the next level,” Razanamahasoa said.

Two people died planting one of the homemade bombs and another 20 crude, unexploded devices were found across the capital. Five close associates of Ravalomanana were arrested but later released, although Andrianirina was not among them.

Madagascar’s recently installed military prime minister, Colonel Camille Vital, warned last week that he would act tough on troublemaking opposition leaders and their supporters. – Reuters