CPJ welcomes release of Moussa Kaka

New York, October 7, 2008–The Committee to Protect Jounalists welcomes today’s provisional release of veteran Nigerien journalist Moussa Kaka after more than a year behind bars on anti-state charges.

An appeals court in the capital, Niamey, ordered Kaka’s release on bail pending trial by a magistrate court on amended charges of “undermining national territorial integrity through conspiracy with Tuareg rebels,” defense lawyer Boureïma Fodi told CPJ. The charges, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, represent a lesser offense than the previous accusation of “complicity in undermining the authority of the state,” which carries a life sentence, according to Fodi.

Separate rulings in February and July acquitted Kaka, but government prosecutors appealed the decisions and kept the journalist behind bars.

“We are relieved that our colleague Moussa Kaka is finally out of prison while he fights the government’s new charges against him,” said Tom Rhodes, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator. “We call on authorities to adhere to the rule of Nigerien law; courts have acquitted Kaka twice this year.”

Speaking to CPJ today after 379 days of detention, Kaka, a correspondent for French international broadcaster Radio France Internationale and the director of broadcasting network Radio Saraounya, said he was in good spirits and thanked fellow journalists worldwide for their support. Kaka also reiterated his innocence, saying his words had been manipulated in recordings.

Kaka, 47, distinguished for his expert coverage of several Tuareg rebellions since the 1990s, had obtained exclusive interviews with rebel leaders prior to his arrest on September 24, 2007.