Ex-Bissau military chief jailed over plot against president

BISSAU (Reuters) - A former head of Guinea-Bissau’s armed forces, held under house arrest for the past month, was transferred to a military prison on Wednesday over his suspected involvement in an aborted plot to kill President Jose Mario Vaz, his lawyer and police said.

Guinea-Bissau's President Jose Mario Vaz speaks with journalists after a meeting with his Portuguese counterpart Anibal Cavaco Silva (not pictured) at Belem presidential palace in Lisbon June 19, 2014. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

Rear Admiral Jose Zamora Induta, who headed the volatile West African nation’s military from 2009 until he was pushed out in 2010 by General Antonio Indjai, returned from exile in Portugal in July.

Police sources said they had driven Induta to the Mansoa prison, around 50 km (30 miles) northeast of the capital, on the orders of a military tribunal in connection to the August plot and other crimes. Induta’s counsel confirmed the transfer.

“By virtue of the law and my position as lawyer of the rear admiral, they should have notified me beforehand. But alas, everything was done without my knowledge,” said Jose Paulo Semedo.

Induta has not spoken in public about the accusations, and Samedo would not make a statement on his guilt or innocence.

Former Interior Minister Marcelino Cabral announced the existence of the foiled plot, which included a plan to kill President Vaz, on the private radio station Nossa Radio in August.

At the time Vaz been embroiled in political in-fighting with fellow members of Guinea-Bissau’s ruling PAIGC party. He appointed his third prime minister in five weeks on Sept. 17.

Vaz has led an initiative to reform the chronically unstable state’s military, which includes a goal to retire about half of its 5,000 officers by 2020.

The former Portuguese colony has suffered nine coups or attempted coups since 1980.

Over the past decade it has become a major transit route for smuggling South American cocaine to Europe, an activity authorities in the United States claim has been organized at the highest levels of the armed forces.

Reporting by Alberto Dabo; Writing by Makini Brice; Editing by Christian Plumb