Juan Remy Quignolot has also been accused of illegal possession of military weapons, criminal association, damage to state security and conspiracy.
Authorities in the Central African Republic (CAR) have charged a French citizen with espionage and conspiracy, almost a month after his arrest.
Juan Remy Quignolot was arrested on May 10 after police found weapons, military weapons and foreign banknotes at his residence in the capital, Bangui. Authorities accuse him of aiding and abetting rebel fighters in the conflict-ridden country since 2013.
CAR Attorney General Eric Didier Tambo said Wednesday that Quignolot has been charged with espionage, illegal possession of military and hunting weapons, criminal association, damage to state security and conspiracy.
He made no reference to a country or organization for which Quignolot allegedly worked, but said any process would be done in six months.
“In case of prejudice to national security, we are talking about forced labor for life,” he said, referring to the potential punishment.
Quignolot, 55, denied the allegations. He was not immediately commented on by the French embassy in Bangui and the French Foreign Minister.
The announcement of the accusation came two days after France suspended military aid and support to the CAR because of what it said was a failure by the government to plant “massive disinformation campaigns” that they were addressed to their officials – a statement that pointed the finger at Russia, with which France has been in competition for influence in the country.
The French government had previously provided the authorities in Bangui with 10 million euros (12.18 million dollars) in support of the budget. It also maintains a force of nearly 300 soldiers in the CAR.
Photos circulating on social media on the day of Quignolot’s arrest showed him with his hands tied behind his back, perched on some stairs in front of an arsenal of weapons, ammunition and military clothing.
Two days later, France condemned the arrest and the figures as “clear manipulation”.
He said “disinformation networks” had been used, “promoting well-identified interests that are accustomed to targeting France’s presence and actions” in the CAR.
Quignolot’s arrest was particularly shared on Twitter by Valery Zakharov, a Russian who is a close adviser to RCA president Faustin-Archange Touadéra.
Russia has increased military support in the CAR, sending hundreds of military instructors to arm and train government troops to defend the country’s myriad rebel movements.
The nation that produces gold and diamonds of 4.7 million people has seen repeated episodes of violence by armed groups since 2013, including a civil war that ended in 2016, as well as struggles in elections at the ‘beginning of this year.