Reporters Without Borders called on Niger's judicial authorities to uphold an investigating judge's decision to drop all charges against imprisoned journalist Moussa Kaka after a Niamey court began today to hear the department of public prosecution's appeal against the decision, and then adjourned until 7 October for further consultation.
"We now place all our trust in the appeal court judges, who clearly acted with prudence today," Reporters Without Borders said. "Anything that tends to keep Kaka in prison seems to be dubious, as the senior investigating judge concluded his investigation by ruling that Kaka should not be prosecuted. We think that was an authoritative decision, one that should not be challenged unless the aim is to keep Kaka in prison by any means possible."
In today's hearing, the prosecutor-general requested that the charge against Kaka be changed to a lesser one of "actions liable to harm the national defence," which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a heavy fine, and that the case be sent before a criminal court.
Requesting confirmation of the investigating judge's 23 July decision to drop all charges, Kaka's lawyers opposed the proposed new charge on the grounds that, under the law cited by the prosecutor, it can only be used in "time of war." The government insists that Niger is not at war and that the rebels operating in the north of the country are just "armed bandits."
The director of privately-owned Radio Saraounia and Niger correspondent of Radio France Internationale and Reporters Without Borders, Kaka was arrested in Niamey on 20 September 2007 on a charge "complicity in a conspiracy against state authority," which carries a possible life sentence.
The public prosecutor claimed that the phone calls Kaka made in the course of his reporting with one of the leaders of the Niger Movement for Justice (MNJ), a Tuareg rebel group, were evidence of "conniving" with the rebels.