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Niger releases Radio France International reporter held over links with Tuareg rebels

Niger releases Radio France International reporter held over links with Tuareg rebels
RFI journalist Moussa Kaka.Photo: Agence France-Presse (AFP)

A Niamey appeals court has freed Radio France International (RFI) journalist Moussa Kaka after he had spent more than a year in jail accused of collaborating with Tuareg-led rebels.

The court Tuesday ordered Kaka's release and downgraded the charges against him. He was arrested in September last year charged with colluding with rebels who have been waging a guerrilla war in Niger's uranium-producing north.

Paris-based Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) hailed the order for the provisional release of Kaka. The director of privately-owned Radio Saraounia and Niger correspondent of RFI and RSF, Kaka has spent the past 384 days in detention.

“This good news is, we hope, the first stage in a process that will quickly lead to a just and honourable outcome,” RSF said in a statement. “We share the relief of Moussa Kaka’s family, who have displayed courage and dignity ever since his arrest. After 384 days in detention, our friend, Moussa Kaka, has the right to see this long ordeal come to an end.”

The court ruled that the charges against Kaka should be changed to “actions liable to harm the national defence” and that the case should be sent before a criminal court. At the same time, the court issued an order for his provisional release from Niamey prison, where he has been held since September 26, 2007.

Kaka was greeted by family, friends and fellow journalists as he left the prison. “I am relieved and I want to thank all those who thought of me during this past year,” he told RSF a few minutes after arriving at his home in the early afternoon.

The court’s ruling said: “The charges are amended to violation of the integrity of national territory in agreement with members of the MNJ [rebels], offences that are defined and punished by article 80 of the criminal code. The court orders his transfer before a Niamey criminal court to be tried according to the law. It also orders Moussa Kaka’s provincial release.”

The decision was the result of an appeal by the prosecutor’s office against a decision by Niamey’s senior investigating judge on July 23 - after questioning Kaka on the substance of the case in two hearings - to dismiss the charge of “complicity in a conspiracy against state authority” originally brought against him, which carried a possible life sentence.

In its appeal, the prosecutor’s office had called for Kaka to be prosecuted on the lesser charge of “actions liable to harm the national defence,” which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a heavy fine.

When the authorities arrested Kaka in September last year, the public prosecutor claimed that the phone calls he had made in the course of his reporting with one of the leaders of the Niger Movement for Justice (MNJ), a Tuareg rebel group based in the north of the county, were evidence of “conniving” with the rebels.

Date posted: October 8, 2008 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 355