In Madagascar, two French people accused of being the brains of an alleged coup d’etat before a criminal court

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It was in a tense climate that the trial of the “Apollo 21” case, the name given to the supposed project of putsch and assassination of Madagascan President Andry Rajoelina and of members of his entourage. A coup scheduled for July 21, 2021 according to the authorities.

The twenty defendants, accused of” conspiracy “, d’“Attack on the life of the Head of State”, “To the internal security of the State”, as well as “Illegal possession of weapons” appeared surrounded by about sixty gendarmes and police, hooded and armed with Kalashnikovs. Journalists were banned from filming and recording this public hearing, on pain of legal action.

Read also What we know about the alleged coup attempt in Madagascar

The alleged brains of the case are a Franco-Malagasy, Paul Rafanoharana, 58, and a French, Philippe François, 54, partners in business through the investment company Tsara First, created in January 2020, and both retired from the French army. They have been in detention and their wives since August 4.

A former prime minister, now a consultant to the oil company Madagascar Oil, Victor Ramahatra, would also have played a major role in this conspiracy project, according to the indictments whose reading occupied this first day of hearing. On the benches of the accused also appear several generals of the gendarmerie, placed under judicial control.

“Putting an end to a power of thugs”

In July, the public prosecutor at the Antananarivo Court of Appeal, Berthine Razafiarivony, justified her spectacular strike by the existence of “Physical evidence in [sa] possession ». The searches ordered had enabled the courts to seize “Electronic correspondence, 900 million ariary [quelque 200 000 euros], a 12 gauge shotgun, computer equipment “.

The existence of an email sent by Paul Rafanoharana to the CEO of the Singaporean group Benchmark – majority shareholder of Madagascar Oil – asking him for 10 million euros in order to overthrow a regime deemed autocratic had also been put forward.

Read also Suspected coup d’état in Madagascar: trial of 21 defendants, including two French

All of these were recalled on Monday. “According to the statements of the accused [Paul Rafanoharana], its main objective in the development of the Apollo 21 project was to put an end to a power of thugs, mafia and corrupt “, read the clerk in a voice that echoed between the decrepit walls of the courtroom. Paul Rafanoharana would have admitted that he was preparing something, but denied having any intention to assassinate the president.

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