Johannesburg - Exiled Malagasy president Marc Ravalomanana on Tuesday dismissed as false allegations that he committed crimes against humanity.
South Africa's National Prosecuting Authority had told him it was common cause that he “did not himself participate in any of the incidents”, Ravalomanana said in a statement. The NPA is required by law to investigate the allegations.
“A purposeful attempt is being made to mislead South Africans into thinking that I am guilty of a crime and this is simply untrue,” Ravalomanana said.
Andry Rajoelina ousted Ravalomanana in March 2009 in a military-backed coup, precipitating a political crisis. Ravalomanana was sentenced in absentia to life in prison for the killing of 40 peaceful protesters by his presidential guard in protests shortly before his overthrow.
He blamed the regime in Madagascar, and said it was trying to prevent his return to contest elections.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) had persuaded all major parties in Madagascar, including the leaders of a recent coup there, to agree to a roadmap for resolving the crisis.
It provided for Ravalomanana's unconditional return to contest the election, and a blanket amnesty for crimes committed during the time of the coup - unless these were crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide and other serious violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
“After I was forced out of my country, literally at gunpoint, the illegal coup regime staged a kangaroo court, show-trial against me,” he said.
“I was 'tried' and found guilty in absentia, allegedly because I was held responsible for the people who were shot and killed outside the Presidential Palace.”
The international community, including embassies represented in Madagascar, Amnesty International, and the International Criminal Court, as well as the Malagasy Bar Association representing the legal profession, had all declared he was not guilty and that the trial was a mockery.
“I have long asked for there to be a proper international investigation by the International Criminal Court,” he said.
He had written to the court last year making a formal request for an investigation.
The only way the regime could prevent his return to Madagascar was to pretend he was guilty of a crime, he said.
The NPA had told him that although the “evidence” the regime had provided referred to “the number of people being shot or killed outside the Presidential palace”, it was common cause that he “did not participate in any of the incidents mentioned”, he said.
In order for him to be guilty of a crime against humanity, it would have to be established that he had been responsible for a widespread or systematic attack on the civilian population. “Nobody has alleged anything of the sort,” he said.
“They are unable to do so because I am not guilty of any of the crimes they allege.”
Ravalomanana left for the Seychelles on Monday for a second round of talks with Rajoelina, Agence France Presse reported.
If the rivals fail to settle their differences by August 16, they risk exclusion from the mediation process, according to AFP.
The NPA confirmed to the Sunday Times that initial material suggested “reasonable evidence” that crimes against humanity had occurred.
NPA official Bulelwa Makeke told the newspaper: “I can confirm that the process of collecting evidence is underway and discussions with the directorate of priority crime investigation have been held.”
A Malagasy group, called the Association of Martyrs of Antananarivo Merina Square, had laid a complaint with the NPA through a South African attorney four months ago.
The association submitted a dossier including affidavits by alleged victims, video footage and international reports on what had happened in Madagascar before Ravalomanana was toppled.
Makeke said the final decision on whether to prosecute rested with the national director of public prosecutions.
The NPA was not immediately available for comment on Tuesday. - Sapa