Global Witness welcomes the release of human rights defenders, journalists and civil society leaders in Niger, and calls on the government to immediately free the remaining activists still behind bars.
“We are delighted that Ali Idrissa, Moussa Tchangari and Nouhou Arzika and many of their fellow activists are leaving prison and returning to their families tonight. Sadly that isn’t the case for all of the protestors – many of whom are still behind bars,” said Simon Clydesdale, Anti-Corruption Campaigner at Global Witness.
Despite not having attended the demonstration in question, Idrissa, Tchangari and Arzika were convicted of ‘illegal assembly’ and sentenced to three months. These charges and convictions set a dangerous precedent. They are expected to be released today, having already been detained for four months. “A free press, a strong civil society and the right to protest are fundamental in the fight against corruption. We are calling on the Nigerien authorities to release all of the remaining prisoners and overturn their convictions immediately.”
Yesterday, the Nigerien lawyer Lirwana Abdourahmane was handed a one-year prison sentence. Reports differ, but we understand eight additional activists were given six month sentences. With time served, they will now spend two more months in jail. Five more human rights defenders are yet to be convicted and await trial behind bars.
"The finance law that has caused this wave of protests in Niger is still in place, but so is the right to freedom of expression in Niger’s constitution and in international law. This should signal the end of a cycle of politically motivated detentions and prosecutions," said Clydesdale. "The regional security role that European states want Niger to play depends on Niger’s own stability. Freedom to express opposition is a fundamental right that strengthens society and must be protected by the judiciary."
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