Guinea police fired tear gas at women protesting over upcoming elections, as well as kicking and hitting them to break up the rally, leaving about 20 injured, an AFP journalist witnessed Thursday.
About 200 women from several opposition parties gathered near the headquarters of the electoral commission (CENI) in the capital Conakry, demaning a restructuring of the body ahead of legislative polls on July 8.
"Down with CENI!", "Viva democracy!", the women shouted, also clamouring for the resignation of the electoral commission president Louceni Kamara, and demanding free and transparent elections.
Police prevented them from protesting directly outside the headquarters, and after ordering them to "immediately leave the premises" fired canisters of tear gas. Some were kicked or hit with belts, AFP witnessed, counting 18 injured, some lightly while about six had blood-stained faces.
A spokesman for the protesters, Hadja Biya Diallo, said three of the women had been arrested, while a policeman speaking on condition of anonymity said there were "many arrested."
"These protesters were sent by their chiefs," the leaders of the opposition, said a police official at the scene. "We will not tolerate anarchy in this country." Police were later deployed around the electoral commission headquarters.
The opposition has said the poll date of July 8 is "far-fetched", saying it had been set down without proper consultations with political parties. The polls had already been delayed and should have been held six months after Guinea's first democratic election in November 2010, held to fanfare after a period of turmoil under a military junta which took over in 2008.
The opposition has accused the regime of planning to hold sham polls with no safeguards against fraud, and wanted the electoral register to be audited before they take place.
The last legislative elections were in June 2002.