New York, August 3, 2009--Two Nigerien editors whose weekly newspapers reported on corruption charges involving the national human rights commission have been in police custody since Saturday, according to local journalists and news reports
Abdoulaye Tiémogo of the Le Canard Dechainé and Ali
Soumana of Le Courrier were being held at the main police station in the
and could be formally charged on Wednesday, according to defense lawyer Karim
Souley. The arrests stem from complaints filed by Justice Minister Garba Lompo,
on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, he said.
Le Canard Dechainé alleged that Lompo, while
president of the commission, misused millions in CFA francs destined for a
study on slavery in Niger.
Lompo has denied the charge. Le Courrier reported that the commission
misused 350 million CFA francs (US$760,000) that was earmarked for supervision
of Tuesday's referendum on a constitutional amendment scrapping presidential
term limits, according to local journalists. The commission members denied the
"The detention of Abdoulaye Tiémogo and Ali Soumana is part
of a disturbing trend of harassment of independent journalists reporting on
corruption in Niger,"
Africa Program Coordinator Tom Rhodes
said. "They should be released immediately and allowed to work freely."
On Saturday, police questioned Tiémogo, Soumana, and
six other editors about the publication of a leaked document purporting to show
that President Mamadou Tandja's son received kickbacks from Niger
's uranium mining profits,
according to press reports and local journalists. The administration and the presidential
family did not respond publicly to the accusation. The editors--Moussa Aksar of L'Evènement
, Zakari Alzouma of Opinions
, Abard Mouddour
Zakara of L'Actualité
, Oumarou Keita of biweekly Le Républicain
Ibrahim Souley of L'Enquêteur
, and Assane Sadou of Démocrate
--were released without charge after a few hours.