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Central African Republic23 January 2008

Prosecutor brings “dishonest” charges against editor to justify request for two-year jail term

Reporters Without Borders condemns the prosecution’s insistence on requesting a two-year prison sentence for Faustin Bambou, the editor of the privately-owned weekly Les Collines de l’Oubangui, when his trial on charges of libel, insult and “incitement to revolt” opened on 21 January. Bambou has been held since 11 January over an article accusing two ministers of taking kickbacks.

“The judicial manoeuvring that resulted in Bambou being arrested despite the decriminalization of press offences three years ago is depressing,” the press freedom organisation said. “It is completely dishonest of the prosecutor’s office to suggest that an article in a small-circulation newspaper could start a revolt. We hope the court’s verdict will recognise the utterly improper nature of Bambou’s detention and will allow him to freed.”

The court rejected motions by Bambou’s lawyers for the charges to be dismissed or modified when the trial started on 21 January. As well as a two-year jail term, state prosecutor Firmin Féïndiro requested a fine of 3 million CFA francs (4,573 euros).

“I take full responsibility for my article,” Bambou told the court during the hearing, which was broadcast live on national radio. “I was the person who did the research for this story before publishing the article,” he said. At the end of the hearing, the trial was adjourned until 28 January.

Independent newspaper editors refused to publish any issues from 17 to 21 January in protest against Bambou’s arrest and the nature of the charges brought against him.

Bambou was arrested by the gendarmerie’s criminal investigation department on 11 January because of an article accusing two government ministers of taking 7 billion CFA francs (10.5 million euros) in illegal commissions from Areva, a French company that recently invested in uranium deposits in the southeastern Bakouma region.

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