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France Refuses Asylum to Comoros Rebel

The French government has decided not to offer asylum to Comoros rebel-leader Mohamed Bacar - but has also rejected sending him back to the Comoros for fear of persecution. Lisa Bryant has more on the decision made two months after Bacar fled the Indian Ocean archipelago.

The decision by the French refugee agency OFPRA to reject Mohamed Bacar's request for asylum in France leaves the Comoran rebel leader in limbo.

OFPRA spokeswoman Emmanuelle Francois said the decision was based on the Geneva Convention which is against granting asylum to those who committed crimes or torture while they held an official function. Critics accuse him of torturing his opponents.

Francois did not specify what crimes or torture charges might apply to Bacar, who French and African Union troops ousted in March from the Comoros island of Anjouan. He fled to the French overseas territory of Mayotte and was later transferred to another French territory, Reunion.

Francois said France recognized fears that Bacar could be persecuted should he return to the Indian Ocean territory. That means he must now find another country willing to accept him. She suggested there was no deadline for him to do so.

Meanwhile, the Agence-France Presse news agency reports Bacar plans to appeal France's asylum rejection.

The renegade leader was re-elected president of the Comoros island of Anjouan last June, in a vote the archipelago declared illegal and that was not recognized by the African Union.

Bacar faces another test next month, when a Paris appeals court is expected to rule on charges of weapons possession and illegally entering French territory.