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Anti-corruption blogger charged with defamation in Chad

The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International protests the treatment of blogger and writer Jean Laokolé, who has been charged with defamation after being arrested by a group of men in civilian clothes on 22 March 2013 and detained incommunicado for three days. The charges are thought to relate to a series of articles he wrote and posted on a blog denouncing corruption, poor governance and nepotism in Chad. Laokolé is thought to be at risk of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment in the prison where he is now being held. PEN International calls on the Chadian authorities to ensure his safety and well-being in custody and to grant him bail pending trial. If he is detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression, he should be released immediately and unconditionally.

Jean Laokolé, blogger and writer, has been charged with defamation thought to be associated with a series of articles denouncing corruption, poor governance and nepotism in Chad that he wrote and posted on a well-known Chadian blog in 2012 under the pseudonym Vourboubé Pierre. Laokolé was reportedly identified as the author by the intelligence services. He appeared before a magistrate on 1 April 2013, where his lawyer stated that the procedure in the case of defamation had not been followed and that there was no reason why Loakolé should not be granted bail. On 16 April it was reported that his hearing was expected in the coming days.

Arrested by members of the security forces dressed in civilian clothes while driving with his family in the Chadian capital N'Djamena on 22 March 2013, Laokolé was held incommunicado for three days. He had reportedly been summoned for questioning by the criminal investigation police earlier on the day of his arrest as a result of a complaint about an article he had written. Negotiations were said to be underway between the parties who felt that he had brought “false accusations” against them, with an agreement reached that Laokolé would publish an apology on his blog and would also send a letter of apology to those likely to have been injured by the post; he reportedly planned to do this on 23 March.

Initially held in the OCAM camp – a former military camp in N'Djamena – Laokolé was then transferred to Am Sinene detention centre, 30km outside the capital. Conditions in the Am Sinene detention centre are so harsh that they amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, according to Amnesty International.

Useful links

• Amnesty International (25/03/2013) 'Document –Chad: Further Information: Jean Laokolé charged and awaiting trial': http://amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AFR20/002/2013/en/d71d29f0-cc06-41f0-b03f-769de420382f/afr200022013en.html
• Internet Sans Frontiers (09/04/2013) 'Tchad : Un blogueur arrêté et mis au secret': http://www.internetsansfrontieres.com/Tchad-Un-blogueur-arrete-et-mis-au-secret_a473.html
• Find all articles by Jean Laokolé published on the blog http://makaila.over-blog.com/ by clicking here

Please send appeals:

• Protesting the treatment of blogger and writer Jean Laokolé, who was arrested by men in civilian clothes on 22 March 2013 and detained incommunicado for three days before being transferred to prison and charged with defamation;
• Calling on the Chadian authorities to protect Laokolé from ill-treatment in prison and urging them to grant Laokolé bail pending trial;
• Expressing concern that Laokolé may be detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression, in which case he should be released immediately and unconditionally.

Send your appeals to:

President of the Republic
Monsieur Idriss Deby
Président de la République
Présidence de la République
BP 74, N'Djamena
Email: http://www.presidencetchad.org/nous_ecrire.php
Salutation: Dear President Deby

Minister of Human Rights
Amina Kodjiyana
Ministre des Droits de l'Homme
Ministère des Droits de l'Homme
BP 169, N'Djamena
Email: [email protected]
Salutation: Dear Minister

Minister of Justice
Monsieur Abdoulaye Sabre Fadoul
Ministre de la Justice,
Ministère de la Justice
BP 426, N'Djamena
Salutation: Dear Minister

Or via your nearest Chadian embassy – see http://www.embassypages.com/chad

***Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN International if sending appeals after 30 June 2013***

For further details please contact Tamsin Mitchell at the Writers in Prison Committee London Office: International PEN, Brownlow House, 50-51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER Tel: +44 (0) 207 405 0338 Fax +44 (0) 207 405 0339 email: [email protected]

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