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Critics of Guinea's Military Leader Allege Intimidation, Threats

Critics of Guinea's military leader Moussa Dadis Camara says he has responded to growing opposition by limiting freedom of expression in the country and he is warning political leaders not to protest publicly.

After exercising increased pressure against his political opponents, Guinea's military ruler Moussa Dadis Camara is coming under criticism from within and outside of his country.

To stem demonstrations, Captain Camara recently cut off text message service to the entire country for several days after youth groups decided to take to the streets in organized protests, both for and against Camara.

Human Rights Watch senior West Africa researcher, Corinne Dufka, says the situation is causing controversy in the capital, Conakry.

"We are concerned about a number of incidents of intimidation and of the violation of the freedom of expression in response to civil society and political parties criticizing the presumed candidature of CNDD president, Dadis Camara in the upcoming election," said Dufka.

The increase in opposition follows a Camara declaration that he or any member of his party, known as the National Council for Democracy and Development, could run for office in next year's elections.

Captain Camara and his CNDD forces took over the West African country in a coup last December after the death of longtime president Lansana Conte. Shortly after taking power, Captain Camara pledged to hold free and fair elections in 2009 and vowed that neither he nor anyone from his party would run in those elections.

One of the country's most prominent civil societies, made up of local opposition parties and human rights organizations, refused to participate in a political gathering organized by the military government.

Oury Bah said the meeting was not an adequate effort to address the grave problems facing the country at this time. Bah says opposition forces want access to the media in order to convey their message to the public.

He also denounced what appears to be the imminent decision of CNDD leaders to run for office.

Bah reminded Camara the country is facing serious economic problems. He said these problems can turn into violence.

Dufka added that the Guinean police forces do not have a good track record of dealing with opposition protests, and often these events can prove disastrous for the local population.

"Guinea has an extremely worrying past in which the security forces have used excessive use of force in responding to demonstrations, most notably in 2007, when over 130 demonstrators were killed," she said. "We are saying that in anticipation of demonstrations, which we understand are already going on today, they must abide by these principles and use minimum force when responding," said Dufka.

The CNDD has also been criticized for intimidating those who have spoken publicly against Captain Camara running for president. In August, Cellou Dalein Diallo, the presidential candidate for the opposition Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG), called for Captain Camara not to run for president in declarations to the national and international press.

Afterward, he was twice summoned to the Alpha Yaya Diallo military camp. There he was told to stop commenting on the possible candidacy of CNDD leader. Dufka says it was not an isolated incident.

"We also spoke with a prominent human-rights activist who asked not to be identified, who after giving interviews, again asking the CNDD's leader not to run for political office, received three death threats by telephone," she said.

Captain Camara has not formally declared himself a candidate in the elections.