[JURIST] A Madagascar court on Monday began the trial of a former International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] judge accused of planning an attempted coup in the country. Raymond Ranjeva, who served as an ICJ judge from 1991 to 2009, and his daughter, Riana Ratsisalovanina, appeared in court on charges of planning a coup against President Andry Rajoelina [official profile, in French; BBC profile]. Military officers marched into the capital city and tried to seize power [JURIST report] during the country's November 2010 constitutional referendum, but the plot failed. Ranjeva, who had stated previously that he would be inclined to participate in a new government, was charged [Reuters report] shortly after the attempted takeover and released on bail. Prosecutors claim to have found documents linking Ranjeva to the coup, but Ranjeva denies the accusations [SAPA-AFP report].
Madagascar has faced ongoing political unrest [Reuters timeline], and much of the international community has refused to recognize Rajoelina's regime. In November 2010, days after the attempted coup, voters in Madagascar approved a new constitution [JURIST report] that lowered the minimum age requirement for presidential candidates. Then 36-year-old Rajoelina, who came to power [JURIST report] in 2009 after ousting former president Marc Ravalomanana [BBC profile], organized the national referendum [Guardian report] to change the president's minimum age requirement from 40 to 35 years of age. The change secured Rajoelina's ability to run in the next presidential election. In August 2010, a Madagascar court sentenced [JURIST report] Ravalomanana to life in prison with hard labor for ordering the killing of opposition protesters in February 2009. Ravalomanana, who has been living in South Africa since his overthrow, was sentenced in absentia [BBC report] on charges of murder and accessory to murder in connection with the deaths of at least 30 people by his presidential guard.