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Editor charged and held in custody for defamation and "contempt of justice"

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has protested at the arrest of Aboubacar Gourouza, editor of the independent bi-monthly "L'Eveil Plus" on 26 February 2008 by judicial police in Niamey, in connection with two articles, one relating to an alleged plot against the former prime minister.

He was brought to court on 28 February after being held by Niamey police, charged with "defamation" and "contempt of justice" and taken to the civil prison in the capital.

"Aboubacar Gourouza is the fifth journalist to be imprisoned since the arrest in September 2007 of Moussa Kaka, correspondent for Radio France Internationale (RFI) and Reporters Without Borders, without referring to numerous other press freedom violations that have been perpetrated", the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

"We are extremely concerned about the dangerous course that Niger has embarked on. We urge the Niger authorities to immediately release our colleague and Moussa Kaka".

Both articles appeared in the "L'Eveil Plus" on 29 January. The first, headlined, "The plot and the plotters unmasked", accused politician Moussa Keita, former activist in the National Movement for a Developing Society-Nassara (MNSD-Nassara), of "orchestrating" a major "conspiracy" to secure charges against former prime minister, Hama Amadou. Keita accused Hama Amadou of complicity in the torching of his own car and the politician had sued him for defamation.

The second article, headlined "the Niamey Urban Community (CUN) case: another plot against the MNSD", criticised the detention of the president of the CUN, Aboubacar Seydou Ganda, "without any evidence of the truth of the charges against him". The journalist added that he and "all those implicated in this case and who are still in prison should be given bail while awaiting trial".

He concluded that there was reason to believe that "this case is not judicial but political". The public prosecutor brought a case against him for "contempt of justice".

Gourouza's trial has been set for 3 March. Moussa Kaka is still being held in prison in Niamey for "complicity in damaging state authority" and faces life imprisonment.

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