Mali ALERT: Three radio station staff detained

Three staff of the privately-owed Radio SIDO fm station are being detained at the Ségou prison, 200 km south-west of Bamako, capital of Mali. The Ségou court charged Mamoutou Traoré, senior administrator of Radio SIDO, his deputy, Gatta Bah and Amadou Chérif Haïdara, a presenter, with the “offence” of “slander and incitement to violence.”

The three were arrested and detained following a suit filed on October 20, 2003, by Souleymane Doumbia, lawyer and bailiff, on behalf of the National Agricultural Development Bank (BNDA). Also detained was Mahamadou Kounta Dicko, Secretary General of the opposition African Solidarity for Development and Integration (SADI) party.

On November 5, the court released Dicko due to poor health; but declined an application to release Haïdara on the same grounds of ill health.

According to the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)-Mali, lawyer Souleymane Doumbia brought a writ against the management of Radio SIDO and the opposition leader after a talk programme during which listeners were invited to express their grievances in a phone-in session.

Between 1991 and 1993, some inhabitants of Soroba, a small village in the Konodimini district located 23 km from Ségou formed an association and contracted a loan of FCFA4,312,000 from the BNDA to finance individual projects. Some of the villagers were, however, unable to liquidate their loans within the stipulated time frame. Consequently, the bank hired Doumbia to recover the outstanding balances on the loan.

Doumbia, relying on the Ségou court verdict No.94 of April 25, 2002, seized 83 cattle belonging to the villagers. The April 25, 2002 verdict ordered the villagers to settle CFA1,786,553 owing on the loan and in addition pay  CFA150,000 as damages.

On June 18, 2002, 52 of the cattle were auctioned for CFA2,250,000 and the rest returned.

During the radio call-in session, some of the villagers complained about the indiscriminate mortgaging of their cattle, even though they claimed that they had redeemed their part of the loan.

Judgement on the substantive case is scheduled for November 18, 2003. The MFWA appeals to the authorities in Mali to effect the immediate release of the three detainees from custody until their “criminal” guilt is determined in a fair trial.

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