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Togolese President's Brother Detained Over Alleged Coup Plot


The brother of Togo's president has been detained in connection with an alleged plot to take power in a military coup.

Security forces arrested former defense minister Kpatcha Gnassingbe outside the U.S. Embassy in Lome.

A statement posted on the Togolese government web site says he was denied refuge at the embassy and authorities waiting outside detained him as he left the compound.

American officials in Lome say there are very few cases in which individuals are granted refuge at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate, and after reviewing Kpatcha Gnassingbe's case, the embassy determined that it was not appropriate to offer him refuge at this time.

The Togolese government statement says an arrest warrant was issued for Kpatcha Gnassingbe following an investigation that found he is one of the principal organizers of a plot to take power while his brother was on a trip to China.

Togo's Chief Prosecutor Robert Bakai says President Faure Gnassingbe canceled that trip Sunday when the security services of a foreign country warned that an attack against him was imminent.

Bakai says security forces sought to question Kpatcha Gnassingbe about the coup plot Sunday evening. But when they arrived at his home, they were attacked by bodyguards and troops loyal to the former defense minister.

The chief prosecutor says the shoot-out that followed in the Lome suburbs was entirely unprovoked, and security forces called for reinforcements before forcing their way into the compound.

Five army officers and members of Kpatcha Gnassingbe's entourage were questioned following that raid, but the president's brother was not detained.

When security forces returned to his compound late Tuesday to arrest him, he was not at home. They stepped-up surveillance of foreign missions in Lome and picked him up outside the American embassy Wednesday morning.

Kpatcha Gnassingbe is a member of parliament for the northern Kara District, and as such, the U.S. embassy says it understands that he is protected by immunity under Togolese law. But the embassy recognizes this is a domestic matter for deliberation by Togolese legislative and judicial authorities.

Embassy officials say they are aware of the events which precipitated his request for refuge and say the United States does not wish to undermine the investigative and judicial process outlined by Togo's constitution.

An embassy statement encouraged Togolese authorities to respect Kpatcha Gnassingbe's right to due process and said it is critical that the government in Lome respect the civil and human rights of all Togolese including political leaders and government officials.

Kpatcha Gnassingbe says he is the victim of an assassination attempt. Chief Prosector Bakai says an investigation into the events of the last several days continues.

Kpatcha Gnassingbe remains an influential member of the ruling Togolese People's Party. He was elected to parliament in 2007 after his brother sacked him as defense minister.

President Faure Gnassingbe was elected in 2005 following the death of his father, the long-time Togolese leader Gnassingbe Eyadema. Election observers said that violent 2005 election was seriously flawed. The next presidential election is scheduled for 2010.

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