Chad’s public prosecutor told AFP that six opposition leaders arrested on Monday after violent anti-French protests in N’Jamena were sentenced on Monday to a one-year suspended sentence for disturbing public order.
He was also fined 10 million CFA francs, or about 15,000 euros, said prosecutor Moussa Wade Gibrine, who sought a two-year prison sentence.
An expedited hearing began Monday morning at a court in Moussoro, about 300 kilometers (180 miles) from the capital, with defense lawyers boycotting the hearing amid a heavy police presence.
The case comes against a backdrop of political tensions with a military ruling in power following the death of the country’s veteran leader more than a year ago.
An authorized march in the capital turned violent on 14 May against the French military presence in Chad.
According to a police toll, seven petrol stations of French oil major Total were attacked and 12 police officers were injured.
Following this, authorities made several arrests among the organizers of the march, who denied any responsibility for the violence.
Among those accused were Max Loalnagar, coordinator of Chad’s main opposition coalition Wakit Tamma, and Ganoung Waima Gan-Fair, secretary of the Chadian Trade Union Federation.
Six were charged with breach of public order and destruction of property. He started a hunger strike on 23 May.
Trade unions, opposition political parties, armed groups and international NGOs called for the immediate and unconditional release of the six.
“We will appeal, a suspended sentence is still a sentence,” said Vakit Tamma’s lawyer Laguerre Ndjarandi.
“The court has been kind, it’s not a bad thing to calm things down,” Communications Minister Abderman Koulmallah told AFP.
Abdoulaye Bono Kono, Public Prosecutor of the Masoro Court, later declared: “The leaders of Wakit Tamma were released after being sentenced.”
Chad has been under military rule since President Idris Debi Itno, who ruled with an iron fist for three decades, was killed in April 2021 during an operation to crush rebels in the country’s north.
He was succeeded by his son Mahamat Idris Debi Itano, a four-star general who is now the transitional president.
His junta vowed to hold “free and democratic elections” within 18 months after staging a proposed nationwide “dialogue”.
A reconciliation forum should have started last month, but has run into problems.
Armed groups have warned that Monday’s test further compromises national talks. Political opposition has already withdrawn from the organizing process.
There are thousands of soldiers in the Sahel, including Chad, under the Barkhane mission of France.
But in February, Paris announced it would withdraw its troops from Mali and deploy them elsewhere after falling out with the junta in Bamako.
On 16 May, Debbie, reacting to the violence that had occurred two days earlier, attacked the “false and baseless allegation” that French forces would redeploy to Chad.