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DIPLOMACY

Equatorial Guinea accuses Spain of election ‘interference’

Former Spanish colony Equatorial Guinea on Sunday accused Spain, France and the United States of "interference" in its presidential and legislative elections scheduled for November 20th.

teodoro obiang
Equatorial Guinea's Teodoro Obiang Nguema (C) came to power in a 1979 coup and is the longest-ruling head of state in the world excluding monarchs. (Photo by MICHAEL TEWELDE / AFP)

President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who has ruled his country with an iron fist for 43 years, launched his bid for a sixth term this week in a first campaign event.

Equatorial Guinea, the last Spanish colony to claim independence from Spain in 1968, reproached the three countries after their diplomats attended a campaign event this week by one of the two opposition movements authorised to present candidates in the polls.

The foreign ministry described it as “interference in the country’s internal affairs” in a statement.

Obiang’s dominant Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE) holds 99 of the 100 seats in the outgoing lower house of parliament and all the senate seats.

It was the country’s single legal political movement until 1991, when multi-party politics were introduced.

Running against Obiang are Andres Esono Ondo of the Convergence for Social Democracy party (CPDS) and Buenaventura Monsuy Asumu, who represents the Party of the Democratic Social Coalition.

In a tweet on Thursday, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington was “concerned by reports of arrests and harassment of opposition members and civil society” and called on the government to hold “free and fair” elections.

“Equatorial Guinea can cultivate a more inclusive, peaceful, and democratic society by ensuring the expression of diverse political perspectives, a free and fair voting process, and the protection of the human rights of all individuals,” Price said.

Security forces have waged a ruthless campaign over several weeks including arresting opponents.

But the government says the detentions are part of a crackdown on a “plot” by the opposition to plan “attacks” on “gas stations, Western embassies and ministers’ homes”.

Obiang, 80, came to power in a 1979 coup and is the longest-ruling head of state in the world excluding monarchs.

He has never officially been re-elected with less than 93 percent of the vote.

More than 425,000 voters are registered for the polls out of a population of around 1.4 million.

The country possesses major oil and gas resources, but a majority of its 1.3 million people live below the poverty line, according to the World Bank.

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INTERNATIONAL

Supporters call on Iran to release Spanish football fan

Relatives and friends of Spanish football fan Santiago Sánchez, arrested in Iran on his way to the Qatar World Cup, demanded his release during a rally outside Tehran's embassy in Madrid on Sunday.

Supporters call on Iran to release Spanish football fan

“Your family calls for your immediate release,” read a large banner held by several of his relatives, who joined dozens of others for a protest outside the embassy in a residential area.

“My wish for Christmas, of course, is for my son to return. I don’t want (to win) lotteries or anything, I want my son,” Celia Cogedor, Sánchez’s mother, told reporters.

Sánchez left his hometown near Madrid in January, hoping to walk to Qatar in time for the World Cup, which kicked off on November 20th.

He was arrested in early October in Iran after taking a photo of the grave of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old Iranian Kurd whose September 16 death sparked weeks of protests in the Islamic republic, his mother said.

READ MORE: Iran arrests Spanish hiker walking to Qatar World Cup

“In no way was it intended to harm the Iran state’s security,” Cogedor said at the rally.

She also said she was able to speak briefly with her son in recent days and learned he was in “good health”.

“We are asking (the Iranian authorities) to realise that he is not a political activist,” said Jose Felix, a 53-year-old friend of Sánchez, holding a banner reading “Freedom for Santiago”.

Several European citizens, including another Spaniard, have been arrested in connection with the protests in Iran.

Amini had been arrested for allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code for women.

Hundreds of people have been killed while thousands of individuals have been detained during the protests in Iran.

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