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Newspaper editor detained on defamation charge

(MFWA/IFEX) - Zakari Alzouma, the editor of "Opinions," a Niamey-based independent weekly newspaper, is being held by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Niger police following his arrest on 29 October 2008.

A Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) correspondent reported that the editor is expected to appear before a High Court on 3 November to answer defamation charges brought against him by the Minister of Public Security, Albadé Abouba.

The correspondent said the editor had alleged in an article, published in issue number 66 of the 28 October edition of "Opinions", that the minister had taken advantage of the prime minister's absence from the country to cancel a contract awarded to the Sahel Airline Transport Company to airlift 9000 hajj pilgrims from Niamey to Mecca.

The article, headlined "Albadé Kevin and the Hajj 2008," alleged that the minister subsequently awarded the contract to a person known only as "Kevin", an American Airline operator, without proper tendering. The newspaper further alleged that the aircraft used was thirty-six years old and had been banned from flying in American skies.

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