Madagascar's exiled leader arrested on return

AP News
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Posted: Oct 13, 2014 12:48 PM

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Madagascar's former president has been arrested, just hours after he returned to the island nation following more than five years in exile.

A public relations company released a statement Monday on behalf of son Tojo Ravalomanana that says ex-president Marc Ravalomanana was detained by government forces when he returned to the country after staying in South Africa. The statement said the former president was arrested at his home by scores of heavily armed forces.

"They broke through supporters outside of the house — injuring some of them," Tojo Ravalomanana said in the statement. He described the men as wearing balaclavas to disguise their identities. It is unclear where Ravalomanana is being held but the family believes he has been taken to a military base.

On his return to Madagascar Monday the former president gave an impromptu address in the capital, Antananarivo. Ravalomanana told supporters that his political fate was in the hands of the people saying he did not need the permission of the country's new president Hery Rajaonarimampianina to return to Madagascar, according to a local news service Tana News.

Ravalomanana fled Madagascar in March 2009 after he was removed from office by a coup. He was later convicted in absentia of conspiracy to commit murder in a case related to the violence during his overthrow lead by opposition leader Andry Rajoelina. Ravalomanana was sentenced to life in prison after a trial described as "unfair" by Amnesty International.

"There is nothing illegal about him being in Madagascar. He is a citizen of that country," said Ravalomanana's lawyer, Brian Currin, who was also quoted in the statement.

The 15-member Southern African Development Community negotiated a roadmap to peace for Madagascar which also ensured Ravalomanana's return. The former leader's attempts to return to the Indian Ocean island have been blocked several times, with Madagascan authorities refusing entry to a flight he was on in 2012.