A Guinea Bissau military court said it dropped treason charges against former Navy chief Bubo Na Tchuto, a suspected drugs kingpin allied with the current head of the West African nation’s armed forces.
The move comes two months after soldiers broke Na Tchuto out of hiding, took control of the military, and briefly arrested the prime minister who had been seeking to have Na Tchuto prosecuted for his role in a failed 2008 coup attempt.
“The military tribunal has dropped the case against Rear Admiral Americo Bubo Na Tchuto,” Colonel Arsenio Balde told reporters earlier this week.
Na Tchuto had been accused of attempting to overthrow former president Joao Bernardo Vieira in August 2008, and was in exile in Gambia before returning to Bissau in December and seeking refuge at the local offices of the United Nations.
Vieira was subsequently killed by renegade soldiers in March 2009 and has been replaced by an elected government that has made tentative steps toward stabilising the country, a hub in the narcotics trade to Europe.
In April, soldiers liberated Na Tchuto from the UN offices, ousted the army chief of staff and briefly jailed Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior.
General Antonio Njai, an ally of Na Tchuto, is the current head of Guinea Bissau’s military and is widely believed to have the final say in all government decisions, sidelining President Malam Bacai Sanha.
The United States in April named Na Tchuto and former Air Force chief of staff Ibraima Papa Camara as international drug kingpins.
Already prone to coups and revolts, Guinea Bissua has become a hub for hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Latin American cocaine trafficked into Europe. Analysts say the trade has corrupted officials and deepened rivalry between factions.