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Niger Opposition Leader Says Ex-President Tandja Should Face Treason Charges

Peter Clottey | Washington, DC 23 February 2010

A leading member of Niger’s opposition coalition says the group will soon meet the new military junta after it Tuesday named Mahamadou Danda as Prime Minister in a transitional government.

Bazoum Mohammed said the group will demand that ex-President Tandja be charged with high treason in accordance with Article 42 of Niger’s constitution.

“Maybe we will have a meeting with them tomorrow or after tomorrow. I’m not sure when it will happen, but I think that it will be very soon,” he said.

Last Thursday, mutinous soldiers attacked the presidential palace in the capital, Niamey while former President Tandja was reportedly chairing a cabinet meeting.

Ex-President Tandja was ousted last Thursday.

The soldiers detained the former leader along with a majority of his cabinet ministers although most of them have since been released.

Mohammed said the former president should be punished to serve as a deterrent for contravening the constitution.

“Mr. Tandja has violated the constitution and he must be tried. If not one day another man as head of state can do what he has done that is very, very bad. Our former constitution provides in item 42 that when the president does not respect the Constitutional Court’s decision he is in a situation of impeachment because of high treason. And he (Tandja) must be tried for high treason now,” Mohammed said.

Abdul Kamardine, a human rights activist based in the capital, Niamey said the former constitution carries a death sentence for high treason.

But Mohammed said the opposition will not seek the death sentence for Mr. Tandja.

“The most important is for him to be tried&helliphe must be condemned but I don’t think that here in Niger it is necessary to condemn to death anybody even Mr. Tandja,”

“I think that they have to keep him (Tandja) and when we will be in a democratic power with democratic institutions, we have to try him. Not today but they must keep him in jail,” Mohammed said.

The international community including The United Nations, the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) condemned the military takeover despite the junta’s promise of a swift return to constitutional rule.

Opposition leader Mohammed said his group will suggest to the military government a six to nine-month period within which to organize democratic elections.

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