Three Nigerien activists have been released from detention after six and half months in prison.
The three Mounkaila Halidou, general secretary of the National Union of Civil Servants and Contract Agents of Basic Education, Maikoul Zodi and Moudi Moussa of the Tournons la Page- Niger Movement were arrested following a demonstration organised by a coalition of civil society organization to denounce corruption in the management of the Ministry of National Defence.
They were charged for “offences of organising a banned demonstration, complicity in manslaughter, manslaughter, arson and destruction of public property”.
The demonstration followed an audit of the management of funds at the Ministry of National Defence in the context of the fight against terrorism. Niger is engaged in the fight against armed groups along its borders with Burkina Faso, Mali and Nigeria in the Lake Chad basin against the Boko Haram terrorists.
On 6th August, a court in Niamey granted bail of 5 million francs (about 9,200 USD) to the activists but the prosecutor appealed against this decision, forcing the court to stay the execution of the bond. On 15 September, the court validated the prosecutor’s appeal and cancelled the bail. But the lawyer for the accused persons managed to get them released after he argued that detaining them beyond 6 months is “illegal and arbitrary”.
Their fate on the substantive case will be determined on 6 October 2020.
The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) welcomes the release of the activities. Instead of seeking to repress critical and dissenting voices, MFWA would like to urge the authorities to promote and protect freedom of expression and the right to peaceful demonstration, which are indispensable for any democracy that fights corruption and aspires to good governance. This is indispensable for the development and consolidation of the rule of law.