November 18, 2009 / 1:11 PM / in 9 years

Comoran opposition leader released, charges remain

* Larifou released but charges remain in place

* Banned from leaving Comoros archipelago

MORONI, Nov 18 (Reuters) - Comoran authorities released from detention a senior opposition leader on Wednesday, a day after his arrest, but said the charges remained in place.

Said Larifou, head of the Rally for a Development Initiative with an Enlightened Youth (RIDJA), was accused of calling President Ahmed Abdallah Sambi an infidel on Sunday’s opening day of campaigning ahead of next month’s legislative elections.

“Said Larifou has been released by the Moroni authorities, but has been placed under the judiciary’s control,” his lawyer, Ibrahim Ali Mzimba, told Reuters.

Mzimba confirmed the charges against Larifou had not been dropped and said that under the terms of the release Larifou, a Franco-Comoran lawyer based in Reunion, was banned from leaving the Indian Ocean archipelago.

The opposition branded his arrest politically motivated and designed to intimidate government critics.

The Comoros, a former French colony which has witnessed some 20 coups or attempted coups since declaring independence in 1975, will hold legislative elections on Dec. 6.

Comorans voted in May to extend Sambi’s mandate by a year but the opposition said at the time that the low turnout was an indictment of his leadership. (Reporting by Ahmed Ali Amir; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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