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Niger12 February 2008

In “baffling” decision, appeal court keeps journalist in detention and gives green light to prosecutors

A Niamey criminal appeal court today rejected a request for the release of journalist Moussa Kaka and ruled that the transcripts of controversial telephone taps can, after all, be used in evidence against him, allowing prosecutors to proceed with their case, one of his lawyers, Moussa Coulibaly, said.

The manager of Radio Saraounia and the Niamey correspondent of Radio France Internationale and Reporters Without Borders, Kaka was arrested on 20 September on a charge of “complicity in a conspiracy against the authority of the state.”

“This decision is baffling and disappointing,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Coming at a time when all the signs from the government were positive, it suggests that the authorities are bent on persecuting Kaka to the bitter end. We reiterate that Kaka is innocent on all charges and has no place in prison, where he has been unjustly held for the past 145 days.”

The appeal court’s ruling overturned the decision taken in November by the investigating judge in charge of the case that the tapping of Kaka’s phone was illegal and that the recordings of his conversations with Aghali Alambo, the head of the Tuareg rebels of the Niger People’s Movement for Justice (MNJ), on which the accusations were based, were inadmissible as evidence against him, Coulibaly said.

The government calls the MNJ rebels “armed bandits” and refuses to recognise that they have demands of a political nature, while prosecutors claim that Kaka’s phone conversations with Alambo are evidence of his “complicity.” Kaka’s defenders respond that it is perfectly normal and legitimate for a journalist to talk with a source.

The request for Kaka’s release that had been submitted by his lawyers was rejected by the appeal without their being given a chance to discuss it with the judges.

Kaka’s lawyers are now considering their next step, which may be to petition Niger’s highest court of appeal. Meanwhile, the prosecutors are now free to proceed with their case.

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