PORT LOUIS, Nov. 6 — A Mauritian court on Thursday cleared a Hizbollah leader of conspiring to assassinate the former prime minister, closing a case that shocked an Indian Ocean island which prides itself on political stability.
Cehl Meeah, head of the Mauritius office of the Islamic group Hizbollah, was arrested in December 2000 and charged with 13 offences, including conspiring to assassinate former Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam in 1996, while he was still in office.
Ramgoolam was prime minister from 1995 to 2000.
''The director of public prosecutions has thrown out all charges against Mr Meeah due to lack of evidence,'' a court official told Reuters.
The Mauritian Hizbollah says it is linked to the Lebanese guerrilla group of the same name.
The case sent shock waves through Mauritius, which has long been regarded as a model of democracy and stability when compared to much of Africa.
Meeah, who was absent at the court hearing, was later released from prison to be greeted by his family and a large group of rejoicing supporters who had gathered outside.
''This is a great day for the Republic of Mauritius which has witnessed justice despite political manipulation,'' he told reporters.
On October 30 a court cleared Meeah of ordering the murder of three political activists of the former government, who were gunned down seven years ago.
An estimated 200,000 of Mauritius' 1.2 million people are Muslims, who largely live in harmony with the majority Hindus and Christians.
The Indian Ocean island state recognises Hizbollah as a political party, although it has never managed to gain any seats in parliament.
There is widespread speculation in Mauritius media that Meeah will now attempt to re-enter politics and even stand as a candidate in a key by-election in December.