Friday, January 8, 2016


Omerta on Flossel François’ liberation

The opposition says the man, a convicted murderer, was pardoned in exchange for his companion’s political allegiance. And although the man was released on the first day of polling of the second round, government has denied any wrongdoing.

Roland Felicie (centre) who has cancer, was released on bail on compassionate grounds in July last year following several failed requests for Presidential pardon.
Government confirmed on Wednesday that Flossel François, a man sentenced to life imprisonment some 15 years ago, was released following a Presidential pardon. No details were given about the circumstances of the pardon, barring a press release issued by the ministry of Social Affairs stating that, “since the matter has apparently been made a live issues in a pending court case, government says it will refrain from commenting any further on the matter”.

The reason the communiqué was released was to deny “any wrongdoing in the pardoning of any convicts”.

The Social Affairs ministry also explained that “pursuant to Article 60 of the Constitution of Seychelles, clemency is considered and granted only upon receiving the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on the Power of Pardon” and maintained that “all the formalities laid down by the law were complied with, to pardon the individual concerned”.

The details of those formalities weren’t disclosed however and this newspaper has been unable to obtain any information on the procedures. Contacted, the office of the Registrar of the Supreme Court explained that the courts aren’t involved in pardons. The prison authorities have been equally silent.

Sources tell this newspaper however that the Advisory Committee which is chaired by the Principal Secretary (PS) of the ministry of Social Affairs, Linda William Melanie, recommended the pardon of Mr Francois on 15 December and that the pardon was granted the very next day, on 16 December, which was also the first day of the second round of the 2015 Presidential election.

Questions pertaining to the grounds on which Mr Francois was released, the justification for the release on polling day as well as details of the pardon itself were sent to the Social Affairs ministry, but remained unanswered at the time of going to press. The information, this newspaper has been told, will be made available at a later date.

The illegal President of the Seychelles
While the issue of Presidential pardon itself is not being contested, it is the circumstances of the pardon that have raised suspicions. The matter first came to light earlier this week when the Seychelles National Party (SNP) claimed in its second petition contesting the election that a supporter of Lalyans Seselwa, Dania Valentin from Roche Caiman, was induced to give her support to the ruling party following “a promise (...) that her companion Flossel Francois who was serving a life sentence, would be released from prison if she spoke on the PPB of Parti Lepep, having already spoken in favour of Patrick Pillay in a previous PPB on 1 December 2015”.

Reliable sources tell this newspaper that Mr Francois was indeed released on 16 December following a recommendation by the Advisory Committee the day before. This development is deemed suspicious by opposition parties since no known pardons have been granted to convicts in the past.

Human rights lawyer Alexia Amesbury, for one, has regularly deplored the fact that the Presidential pardon has never been granted. Contacted for a comment, she said: “I have repeatedly stated publicly that one of the qualities of a good leader is that of compassion. I have also stated publicly that for the 11 years that Mr. Michel has been President, that despite having the power to pardon, he has not used it once. He refused to pardon a prisoner who had contracted cancer whilst at the Marie Louise prison. The poor man died in custody.

“In the last couple of years, we have watched programmes of restorative justice from Montagne Posée prison, where we saw the case of Jane Labiche, a female prisoner who is serving a life sentence; the mother of the child who died has forgiven Jane publicly on television. A human rights barrister from New Zealand visited Seychelles and met me to discuss the Jane Labiche case as I was her lawyer and he too enquired into the possibility of getting Ms. Labiche pardoned. The President refused.

“And now, for the sake of getting a vote, the President pardons a convicted murderer. This is not only a shame, it is an outright abuse of power and I will go so far as to say, it is a violation of Article 60 which gives him the power to pardon, because a power when given should be exercised in accordance with law and for a proper purpose. It should not be abused as the President has done in this instance. There are many more deserving cases”.

Alexia Amesburys` 5th PPB during the Presidential election featuring Roland Felicie

In July last year, Mrs Amesbury managed to obtain freedom for another convict Roland Felicie who is suffering from colon cancer. Though he was also denied a pardon, he was eventually released on bail in July last year on compassionate grounds after Mrs Amesbury filed a bail application.

Speaking to TODAY in an interview that will be published next week, the SNP leader Wavel Ramkalawan also questioned the decision: “What we find strange is the fact that Mr Michel is in no habit of releasing people, not even those who are sick and I can recount a personal experience. At our parish at St Luke, we had Maxwell Duval, a man who had been convicted of a drug offence. He suffered from cancer, got married on his death bed and the congregation signed a petition on Christmas Day a couple of years back and that petition was sent to Mr Michel to ask that Mr Duval be released to spend his final days at home. He did not even reply”.

SOURCE: Today in Seychelles