A high court in Niamey has handed one-year sentence each to 18 persons for taking part in a “forbidden demonstration.”
The court ruling of July 24, 2018 said half of the sentences was suspended, meaning the convicted persons will serve six months in prison.
Four civil society leaders Ali Idrissa, Moussa Tchangari, Nouhou Arzika and Abdourahmane Lirwana were also handed 3 months suspended sentences for leading the “unauthorised demonstrations.”
The MFWA’s correspondent reports that despite the sentences being suspended, one of the four activists, Abourahamane Lirwana, would remain in detention, having been convicted a day earlier to two years in prison, of which one year is suspended, for “contempt of court” during the trial.
The trial of the convicted persons followed their arrest on March 25, 2018 together with two others who were discharged for lack of evidence. They were accused of “organising and participating in a forbidden march” and “complicity to cause damage to public and private property.”
The MFWA strongly condemns the three-month pre-trial detention of these individuals and their prosecution as criminals for exercising their right to express dissent through demonstrations.
While we appreciate the emergency situation in the country arising from the Boko Haram insurgency, we are equally concerned that the authorities are exploiting the situation to silence criticism and permanently ban marches and processions, especially those protesting against government policies and actions.