Relatives of the late former prime minister of Mali say the country's military government has refused to turn over his body unless they agree not to request an autopsy.
Soumeylou Boubèye Maiga died March 21, 2022, at a Bamako hospital after seven months in detention.
Maiga served under former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who was deposed in a 2020 coup. Maiga was arrested in August 2021 on charges of fraud.
His health deteriorated while in jail, and his family repeatedly sought permission to get him released for treatment. For the last three months, he has been under guard at a Bamako clinic.
At Maiga's home in central Bamako on March 22, where his family gathered to receive guests, his brother Mohamed Boubèye Maiga said the military government has refused to hand over his body unless the family agrees not to request an autopsy.
He added that Maiga's family, friends and lawyers had been refused access to Maiga in recent months as his health deteriorated, so no loved ones were present when Maigi died.
Several Malian political parties, along with the head of Mali's U.N. mission and the president of neighboring Niger, have publicly reacted to Maiga's death.
The spokesperson for a group of opposition parties, Ismael Sacko, talked to VOA from Bamako via a messaging app.
Sacko said Maiga's death could have been a form of political assassination, so an investigation is crucial.
Aguibou Bouare, president of Mali's National Human Rights Commission, a governmental agency that investigates human rights abuse accusations, said that the commission monitored Maiga's case, but it was denied access to the former prime minister while he was in the hospital.
Bouare said that all prisoners, including Maiga, who had not yet been tried have the right to medical treatment and to receive visits from family. Human rights must be respected at all times, in all places, and in all circumstances, he said, especially during exceptional circumstances and periods of crisis.
VOA attempted to reach a Malian army spokesman for comment, but got no response.
The government released a short statement Monday announcing Maiga's death "after a long illness."
The military government ordered Radio France Internationale and France 24 off the air last week after RFI and Human Rights Watch reported on alleged human rights abuses by Mali's army.