Lawyers for Malian former Prime Minister Boubou Cisse denied he was on the run, after a public prosecutor suggested he had fled charges of plotting to overthrow the army-dominated interim government.
The public prosecutor in the capital Bamako said on December 31 that seven people, including Cisse, were under investigation for “plotting against the government, criminal association, insulting the head of state and complicity”.
Five of those people are currently in custody but the prosecutor said that Cisse, the last prime minister before the August military coup, was “untraceable”.
Marcel Ceccaldi, one of Cisse’s lawyers, however, told a news conference on Friday that Cisse “is in Bamako in a safe place”.
Another of his lawyers, Kassoum Tapo, added that Cisse is “not on the run”.
Cisse denied the accusations against him this week in an interview with German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, and confirmed that he was in Mali but did not offer further details of his whereabouts.
The former prime minister added that agents visited his home while he was away in late December and assaulted people inside, pushing him to take “shelter”.
Cisse said he has not been formally charged, since he never received a court summons.
“If they had simply summoned me in due form, obviously I would have come to answer the questions,” he said.
Army officers in the conflict-ridden Sahel state toppled President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on August 18 after weeks of anti-government protests over the country’s armed rebellion, economic struggles and chronic interethnic violence.
Under the threat of international sanctions, the officers between September and October handed power to an interim government, which is meant to rule for 18 months before staging elections.
Mali’s interim government is headed by transitional President Bah Ndaw, who served as defence minister from 2014 to 2015 and held several other military positions, with Assimi Goita serving as vice president.
Despite an initially warm reception, many Malians are growing disenchanted with the interim government, which is dominated by army figures.
Details of the accusations against the seven alleged coup plotters, including Cisse, remain unclear.
The lawyers on Friday said that the proceedings against them are based on a secret-service report to which they do not have access.