CONAKRY, Guinea — Catholic bishops in Guinea criticized the country’s Sept. 5 military coup and called for the unconditional release of deposed President Alpha Condé as well as all those arrested with him.

“The conference expresses its deep concern for the political developments that have taken place in the Republic of Guinea following the coup d’état of Sept. 5, 2021, and for their consequences on regional peace and stability and condemns, with the utmost force, the military coup,” the bishops said in a statement Sept. 8.

The regional Economic Community of West African States, commonly known as ECOWAS, suspended Guinea from membership after the coup and has threatened economic sanctions if the military does not release Condé, 83.

Guinea had been experiencing political instability and sustained protests, mainly over Condé’s attempts to change the country’s constitution for his own benefit, including to secure a third term.

Leaders of the coup, including Col. Mamady Doumbouya, began meetings Sept. 14 with opposition politicians, business leaders and other civic representatives to talk about the country’s future. Although they had made no announcement about further steps, regional and international organizations are pressuring members of the military to announce concrete plans for a transition back to civilian rule.