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"L'Action" editor remanded in custody following complaint brought by finance minister

(MFWA/IFEX) - Boussada Ben Ali, managing editor of "L'Action", an independent Niamey-based newspaper, was arrested on 23 January 2009 and held at the Criminal Investigation Department of the police following a complaint lodged against him by the minister of finance and economic planning, Mahamane Ali Lamine Zein. Ben Ali was remanded in prison custody by the Niamey Tribunal on 26 January and is to reappear in court for judgment on 27 January.

MFWA's correspondent reported that the editor was remanded for allegedly "divulging information likely to undermine public order." The charge stems from an article he published in the 13 January edition of "L'Action" which openly questioned the finance minister about procedure in the awarding of a contract for the procurement of medical equipment. The same article also reported that the minister had diverted about FCFA127 billion (approx.US$256.5 million) from an oil agreement between Niger and China.

On 17 January, Ben Ali was summoned by the High Council for Communications - Niger's media regulatory body - to view a video on the matter that the regulatory body said was evidence against his claim. He was then ordered to retract the story about the minister, but he refused.

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