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africa|system

Families to petition Pan-African Parliament for release of two South African prisoners

Frik Potgieter and Peter Huxham

Frik Potgieter and Peter Huxham

21st June 2024

By: Darren Parker

Creamer Media Contributing Editor Online

     

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On June 24, 501 days after two South African men were allegedly unlawfully arrested in Equatorial Guinea, their families are going to hand over a formal request to Pan-African Parliament (PAP) president Chief Fortune Zephania Charumbira, in Midrand, to ask the institution to help secure the urgent release of engineers Frik Potgieter and Peter Huxham.

It is part of the PAP’s mandate to protect the human rights of African citizens, the families say, adding that they will also stage a peaceful demonstration at the PAP’s offices on the day.

Equatorial Guinea officials will be attending the sitting of the PAP on June 24, as it’s the opening day of the new session. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa might also attend the sitting. 

Potgieter and Huxham were arrested at a hotel they were staying at in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, on February 9, 2023, on what the families say are fabricated drug trafficking charges.

Both men were scheduled to return to South Africa the next morning after a five-week work rotation for their employer SBM Offshore.

The families have, for months, said that, while the Equatorial Guinea authorities claimed that drugs had been found in the engineers’ luggage, the luggage had remained in their rooms and locked with combination locks.

Representatives of SBM Offshore had collected the locked and unopened luggage from the hotel's rooms, in the presence of hotel management and local police, five days after their arrest.

Further, the families have reported that a trial was held in June 2023, but with no credible evidence, witnesses or expert testimonies presented to the court by the State, nor any proof that the alleged drugs were found on the two men, or that indeed there were drugs.

Despite the lack of evidence, both men received a 12-year prison sentence and were each fined $5-million, with additional penalties. The extreme sentences have been deemed to be in violation of Equatorial Guinea’s new Criminal Code, which provides for a maximum sentencing period of three years.

The families’ lawyers have lodged an appeal against the court proceedings and the excessive sentences. However, to date, no further action has been taken by the Equatorial Guinea government or justice system regarding the appeal. Both men remain in prison.

It has been alleged that the reason for the detainment is political in nature, and that the men are being held hostage by Equatorial Guinea Vice President Teodore Nguema Obiang Mangue in retaliation against South Africa’s seizure of Mangue’s super yacht in February last year, as well as the seizure of two of his luxury villas in Cape Town prior to that.

As such, the families believe the only solution to the situation is a political one, not a legal one.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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