Madagascar's military-backed coup leader has ruled out an immediate return for the elected president he ousted, and added Tuesday that when Marc Ravalomanana does come back, he will have to face charges he was responsible for protesters' deaths.
"He must answer for his actions," Andry Rajoelina told reporters two days after southern African leaders called for the ousted president to be allowed to return from exile in South Africa. "Murders cannot be amnestied."
Last year, a court Rajoelina established convicted Ravalomanana of conspiracy to commit murder in a case related to the turmoil of the coup that toppled him. The court also sentenced Ravalomanana to life in prison with hard labor after a three-day trial Ravalomanana had boycotted.
In February, 2009, soldiers opened fire on anti-government protesters, killing at least 25, after violent protests led by Rajoelina. The killings cost Ravalomanana military support and he was ousted soon after.
A weekend summit of the Southern African Development Community discussed efforts to restore democracy to Madagascar. Ravalomanana's camp had welcomed SADC's call for his return.
Ravalomanana "can come back once the situation is stable," said Rajoelina, who has repeatedly rebuffed SADC mediation efforts.
Earlier Tuesday, Madagascar's army chief of staff Gen. Andre Ndriarijaona, appearing before reporters with the chiefs of the police and military police and other military leaders, said allowing Ravalomanana's return would be destabilizing.