2006: Niger: Mamane Abou, Oumarou Keita

His Excellency Monsieur Mamadou Tandja
Président de la République, Présidence de la République
Palais de la République, Niamey, Niger

Monsieur Hama Amadou, Premier ministre
Primature, Niamey, Niger

19. September 2006

Your Excellencies,

As Chair of The Writers in Prison Committee of Norwegian PEN I am appalled at the
sentencing of Mamane Abou and Oumarou Keita, managing editor and editor of
the weekly Le Republicain newspaper respectively. Although the legality of the trial was contested by the journalists’ lawyers, Justice Chaibou Moussa allegedly disregarded an appeal against the apparent illegality of the trial in sentencing the two men. The appeal will be heard by a separate court on 11 September.

The arrest of Mamane Abou and Oumarou Keita followed an article published in July by Le Republicain which suggested that the government’s strengthening of diplomatic relations with Iran and Venezuela was happening at the expense of its relations with western countries. Abou and Keita have also been ordered to pay a fine of 5 million CFA Francs.

The two journalists are being detained in separate prisons, both some distance from Niamey, which violates Niger law which states that detainees should be kept in a detention facility within the court’s jurisdiction.

The Writers in Prison Committee of Norwegian strongly protest the detention of Mamane Abou and Oumarou Keita for alleged «defamation of the state of Niger» and «spreading false news». We call upon the Niger authorities to release unconditionally Mamane Abou and Oumarou Keita and to adopt a law decriminalising press offences in accordance with the public commitment made by President Mamadou Tandja during the 2004 presidential campaign.

Confident that you, Your Excellencies, will take immediate action and set the journalists Mamane Abou and Oumarou Keita free without delay.

Yours faithfully

Elisabet W. Middelthon
Chair Writers in Prison Committee Norwegian PEN

Carl Morten Iversen
Secretary General

Copies to:
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The Niger Representative in Norway
The Norwegian Representative in Niger