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Equatorial Guinea: Woman held in prison cell with up to 100 male detainees

Amnesty International today condemned the detention of a woman in a basic prison cell with up to 100 men as a ‘gross abuse of her rights’.

Brígida Asongsua Elo was arrested in Malabo – the capital city of Equatorial Guinea – on 16 December. She has not been given an explanation for her detention, nor has she been brought before a judge. The prison cell, which she is sharing with 70 to 100 male detainees, has no toilet or bathroom facilities and she has no privacy.

Amnesty International UK Director, Kate Allen said:

“Brígida Asongsua Elo has been held for nearly two months without being charged or brought before a court, and the fact that she has to share her living space with 70 to 100 men is a most serious and gross abuse of her human rights.”

Brígida Asongsua Elo is the wife of prisoner of conscience Guillemo Ela Nguema – formerly a civil engineer – who was convicted in an unfair trial in May 2002 of plotting to overthrow the government. He is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence in Black Beach prison in Malabo.

On 15 December, Mrs Elo visited her husband in prison who was to give her some plans for a house they are building. As prisoners at Black Beach are not allowed to pass papers directly to visitors, he gave the drawing to the guard. Brígida Asongsua Elo never received the drawing, as a superior officer appeared and confiscated it.

The next day, Brígida Asongsua Elo attended morning mass at the cathedral in Malabo. As she left she was approached by two police officers in plain clothes who asked her to go with them to the police station to discuss some issues relating to her husband. They did not have a warrant for her arrest and she has not been accused of or charged with any offence.

Brígida Asongsua Elo has been interrogated twice. The first time was by the Director General of Police shortly after she arrived at the police station, and the second, two days later, was by the Minister of National Security. It appears that during the interrogation the Minister showed her a drawing which he claimed was a plan of Black Beach prison drawn by her husband. The Minister alleged that her husband was planning to escape from prison and had intended to give her the map when she visited him on 15 December. Brígida refused to acknowledge that the drawing shown to her was that done by her husband as she had not seen it before.

On 21 January, Brígida Asongsua Elo’s lawyer filed a writ of habeas corpus on her behalf with the Tribunal de Instrucción y Primera Instancia, the court competent to hear habeas corpus. However, the court has not yet responded.

Kate Allen continued:

“We are calling on thousands of Amnesty International supporters around the world to urge the authorities in Equatorial Guinea to move Brígida in a cell without male detainees and in a place where she has access to hygiene facilities. As well, the authorities must either release Brígida immediately or bring her up on charges and give her a fair trial.”

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