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Togo14 May 2003

Journalist released after four months in detention without trial

Sylvestre Djahlin Nicoué, managing editor of the weekly Le Courrier du citoyen, was released on 7 May 2003. He was detained without trial for four months at Lomé Civil Prison. No official information was given concerning the decision to release the journalist. Following his release, Nicoué went to Atakpamé (160 kilometres from Lomé), where he was reunited with his family.

On 26 December 2002, the managing editor of Le Courrier du citoyen was arrested and placed in police custody for "inciting citizens to take up arms against the state authority". At the time, Criminal Investigation Department officers said the journalist had been detained for questioning so they could "make verifications" concerning "a seditious article that insidiously called on the people to engage in an armed revolt." Nicoué was arrested as he was leaving a meeting with the High Authority for Audio-visual Communications (Haute Autorité de l’audiovisuel et de la communication, HAAC). HAAC officials had asked Nicoué to "show more restraint in his articles."

That same day, Le Courrier du citoyen published an editorial entitled, "Stop [President Gnassingbé] Eyadéma from Governing". The newspaper explained that it was launching a call "to make those who oppress our people understand that if nothing is done to open the gates of freedom and begin a genuine and tangible advance towards a changeover of political power, the people will rebel in 2003." The weekly added that, "All possible options must be considered so that this disgusting and painful period for our people does not continue beyond June 2003, even if it is necessary to make the ultimate sacrifice."

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