Comoros president pardons political opponent

The Comoros presidency on Wednesday pardoned a senior opposition figure sentenced to jail for life in 2018 for allegedly plotting against the state.

Former vice-president Djaffar Said Ahmed Hassane was among four opposition politicians handed life sentences with forced labour in December 2018, months before disputed presidential elections in 2019.

A presidential decree on Wednesday announced that the politician had been “pardoned” and his conviction fully revoked. 

Hassane — who fled to Tanzania before his conviction — was charged for speaking out against a controversial constitutional referendum organised by President Azali Assoumani, which cleared him to serve two terms instead of one ahead of the polls.

The referendum triggered violent protests across the southern African archipelago that led to the arrest of several other high-profile opposition figures — including Hassane’s brother Bahassane Ahmed Said.

At least 17 were charged with unrest and sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.

They were pardoned days after Assoumani took office in May 2019 amid widespread accusations of election rigging.

The Comoros islands — Anjouan, Grande Comore and Moheli — have endured years of grinding poverty and political turmoil, including about 20 coups or attempted coups, since independence from France in 1975.

Assoumani initially came to power in a coup, then ruled the country between 1999 and 2006, and was re-elected in 2016 in a vote also marred by violence and fraud allegations.

He was credited with nearly 60 percent of the vote in the 2019 polls, an outcome rejected by the opposition along with many observers.