Two opposition leaders detained over Togo protests: party

Lome (AFP) - Two leaders of an opposition party in Togo, the Pan-African National Party (PNP), have been detained following mass protests calling for a limit on presidential terms, a coalition of opposition parties said Thursday.

Gueffe Nouridine and Kezire Azizou, prominent members of the PNP, were interrogated by Togolese intelligence services before being arrested Tuesday and detained at Lome Civil Prison.

The leaders were accused of "not taking into account the order of the authorities on the designated routes of the peaceful demonstrations of 13 April", the coalition said in a statement.

"This latest arrest comes after a number of regrettable events."

A demonstrator died and dozens were wounded, according to the government, at an opposition rally Saturday against President Faure Gnassingbe in Bafilo, northern Togo, which was dispersed by security forces.

Gnassingbe has been in power since 2005.

On the night of the rally, the home of PNP president Tikpi Atchadam was ransacked by security forces, who also arrested 30 party members. Twenty have been sentenced and imprisoned, according to the opposition.

The coalition statement denounced "violent repressions by the defence and security forces on civilians."

It demanded that "light be shed by an independent body on the April 13 violence against the civilian population" and that the culprits be "brought to justice".

The PNP last week called protests countrywide, but Minister of Territorial Administration, Payadowa Boukpessi, authorised protests only in the capital, Lome, and two other cities -- Afagnan and Sokode -- which are PNP strongholds.

Police forces used tear gas on protesters who gathered at unauthorised sites, and in Sokode, clashed with demonstrators who erected pyres of burning tyres.

The PNP is demanding constitutional reforms 15 years into the rule of Gnassingbe. He succeeded his father, General Eyadema Gnassingbe, who had led the country with an iron fist for 38 years.

For nearly two years, opposition parties have held regular protests.