Ex-PM imprisoned for 'treason' in Madagascar

Times Of India 26.06.2002

ANTANANARIVO: A former prime minister of Madagascar has been jailed here after being charged with treason for allegedly helping to mount a foiled mercenary operation to assassinate President Marc Ravalomanana.

General Victor Ramahatra, who served as prime minister and military adviser to former president Didier Ratsiraka, appeared in court on Monday before being imprisoned in Antananarivo's central jail, his lawyer Solo Radson said.

Radson said an inquiry has been launched to determine Ramahatra's role in the so-called Operation Toro, the code-name of an alleged mercenary operation prepared from South Africa which Ravalomanana's government said it had uncovered on Friday.

Toro was Ramahatra's 'nom de guerre,' his lawyer said. According to Ravalomanana's government, three helicopters carrying 36 mercenaries had flown out of South Africa on Friday, on a mission to kill Madagascar's new president, officially sworn in last month after a months-long row with Ratsiraka over which of the two men had won an election in December.

Since announcing that it had learned of the mercenary plot, the government says it has "no trace of the helicopters.

The authorities in South Africa have, for their part, expressed disbelief at the reports of the alleged plot, saying it would be difficult for helicopters to fly out of South Africa undetected.

Ramahatra served as transport minister and then prime minister during Ratsiraka's first stint in power in the Indian Ocean island from 1975 to 1992. He was appointed a special military adviser to the former leader when he returned to power in January 1997.