A former chief justice in the central African nation of Equatorial Guinea has gone into hiding and is appealing to the U.S. and the United Nations for help as security forces hunt for him on the orders of the country's longtime ruler, Teodoro Nguema Obiang.
From an undisclosed location where he is hiding, former chief justice Juan Carlos Ondo Angue spoke with VOA, saying his life is at risk if he is arrested. The Obiang government has accused him of taking part in an alleged coup attempt in 2017.
Angue says he is being persecuted for fighting for judicial independence and the separation of powers.
Angue told VOA security forces, acting on the orders of President Obiang, went to his home last week to arrest him without a warrant. Angue said that he was warned in advance and was able to flee, escaping detention.
He said his ordeal stems from a speech he delivered in 2018 at the funeral of a judge who Angue said had been tortured to death for refusing to take part in a corruption scheme by government officials. Angue said authorities tried to get him to change his statement, but he refused and was removed from his post as chief justice.
The French news agency AFP reports the government of Equatorial Guinea is accusing France, Spain, and the United States of obstructing justice, saying their ambassadors obstructed gendarmes from arresting Angue when police arrived at his home last week.
AFP quotes the Spanish Foreign Ministry as saying Angue had invited the three envoys to his home. France and Spain have denied the government's accusations.
In his appeal for help Monday, Angue told VOA he stands no chance of getting a fair trial in Equatorial Guinea, where he said it is common for anyone who disagrees with Obiang, who has been in power since 1979, to be persecuted and killed.
International human rights groups rank the oil-rich country as one of the most repressive in Africa. Amnesty International says human rights defenders face continued harassment, intimidation, and arbitrary detention.