Offices and shops in Guinea were closed Wednesday, the first day of an open-ended general strike. Opposition parties and the country's major trade unions are protesting what they say is President Lansana Conte's interference in the justice system.  Jordan Davis reports from our regional bureau in Dakar.

Unions say they called the action after President Lansana Conte personally intervened to release two of his allies in jail on corruption charges.

Radiatou Sehra Diallo, general secretary of the National Confederation of Guinean Workers, says they are fighting against corruption because she says important people who steal from the government do not get punished.

The country was recently ranked the most corrupt African country by Berlin-based Transparency International.

Prosecutors announced on the eve of the strike that they would seize the assets of the men who were freed.

But union leaders say they will carry on their action until the two are back in prison.

The general strike has brought many large cities to a standstill.

In the capital Conakry, everything is closed, says journalist Maseco Conde. He says shops, banks, and government offices are shuttered and the markets are deserted.

This is the third time Guinean workers have walked off the job in a little over a year. High inflation has made life increasingly difficult for workers whose salaries have not kept up with price increases.

Strikes last June turned violent when at least a dozen were killed in clashes between police and university students.

In recent months, the country's cabinet has been reshuffled several times, raising concern among analysts about the stability of the government.

President Conte, who first came to power in a 1984 coup, is up for re-election in 2008. He is in ill health and has not named a successor.