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Niger6 January 2004

Director of "Le Républicain" released

Mamane Abou, director of the private weekly "Le Républicain", was released on the morning of 6 January 2004. The journalist had spent two months in prison. (JPEG) Reporters without borders welcomes Abou’s release and urges the government to decriminalise press offenses. "We believe that sentencing a journalist to six months in prison for ’defamation’ is completely disproportionate. It is possible to penalise press offenses without using such repressive and brutal means," the organisation said in a statement.

Abou told Reporters without borders that he felt relieved and added that he was looking forward to "getting back to work as soon as possible."

The Niamey Appeals Court granted Abou a temporary release on 6 January. The director of "Le Républicain" had been sentenced to six months in prison with no parole on 7 November 2003. He was also ordered to pay a fine of 300,000 CFA francs (approx. US$575; 450 euros) and 10 million CFA francs (approx. US$19,400; 15,200 euros) in damages and interest for "defamation" and "stealing documents". Abou was not present at the earlier sentencing. He is expected to appear in court again within the next few weeks.

Abou was accused of publishing several confidential Public Treasury documents indicating that the finance minister had misappropriated funds. He had been held at Say’s central prison, about 50 kilometres from the capital, Niamey.

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