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Niger7 October 2008

Court orders journalist’s provisional release after more than a year in detention

Reporters Without Borders hails the order for the provisional release of journalist Moussa Kaka that was issued by a Niamey appeal court today. The director of privately-owned Radio Saraounia and Niger correspondent of Radio France Internationale and Reporters Without Borders, Kaka has spent the past 384 days in detention.

“This good news is, we hope, the first stage in a process that will quickly lead to a just and honourable outcome,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We share the relief of Moussa Kaka’s family, who have displayed courage and dignity ever since his arrest. After 384 days in detention, our friend, Moussa Kaka, has the right to see this long ordeal come to an end.”

The court ruled today that the charges against Kaka should be changed to “actions liable to harm the national defence” and that the case should be sent before a criminal court. At the same time, the court issued an order for his provisional release from Niamey prison, where he has been held since 26 September 2007.

Kaka was greeted by family, friends and fellow journalists as he left the prison. “I am relieved and I want to thank all those who thought of me during this past year,” he told Reporters Without Borders a few minutes after arriving at his home in the early afternoon.

The court’s ruling said: “The charges are amended to violation of the integrity of national territory in agreement with members of the MNJ [rebels], offences that are defined and punished by article 80 of the criminal code. The court orders his transfer before a Niamey criminal court to be tried according to the law. It also orders Moussa Kaka’s provincial release.”

Today’s decision was the result of an appeal by the prosecutor’s office against a decision by Niamey’s senior investigating judge on 23 July - after questioning Kaka on the substance of the case in two hearings - to dismiss the charge of “complicity in a conspiracy against state authority” originally brought against him, which carried a possible life sentence.

In its appeal, the prosecutor’s office had called for Kaka to be prosecuted on the lesser charge of “actions liable to harm the national defence,” which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a heavy fine.

When the authorities arrested Kaka in September of last year, the public prosecutor claimed that the phone calls he had made in the course of his reporting with one of the leaders of the Niger Movement for Justice (MNJ), a Tuareg rebel group based in the north of the county, were evidence of “conniving” with the rebels.


Photo Bouneima Hama (AFP)

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