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Appeal blocks release hope for Niger journalist


Latest update : 2009-11-16

A public prosecutor on Monday blocked the release of prominent Niger journalist Moussa Kaka after a judge ordered his conditional release, now leaving his fate in the hands of an appeals court ruling.

REUTERS -  A judge in Niger ordered the
conditional release of a reporter for Radio France International
(RFI) on Monday, but he stayed in jail because the public
prosecutor lodged an appeal, a judicial source and RFI said.

Moussa Kaka, director of a private radio station and
correspondent for French state-owned RFI, will stay in jail
until an appeal court rules on his case, the source and the
radio said.

Kaka was arrested on Sept. 20 and accused of receiving gifts
or direct payment for reports on the Niger Justice Movement
(MNJ), a rebel group led by Tuareg nomads which has fought
government forces in Niger's desert north since February 2007.

RFI says the only contact Kaka, who is from Niger, had with
the rebellion was through his work as a journalist.

RFI News Director Genevieve Goetzinger expressed concern
over the length of time it may take for a decision.

"We have no idea about what will happen now," she told
Reuters. "What we are sure about is Moussa Kaka's innocence."

"Of course, we regret the appeal," she added.

Uranium-rich northern Niger has been off limits for foreign
journalists since August as part of efforts to combat the
rebels. At least 200 rebels and 70 government troops have been
killed in a year of inconclusive on-off fighting between the MNJ
and the army.

The MNJ is demanding greater regional autonomy and control
over revenues from foreign uranium mining.

The rebels seized four French employees of French nuclear
group Areva at its Cominak mine in the north of the country on
Sunday, an abduction they said showed the government could not
guarantee the safety of foreign mining operations.

Red Cross staff worked on Monday to arrange their release.

"We're trying to see if we can contribute to their return,
we're working on it," Juan Coderque, of the International
Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) regional office in Dakar,
Senegal, told Reuters.

He could give no further details of the organisation's
contacts with the Niger rebels.

Niger has a poor record for press freedom and Kaka's arrest
and continued detention is one of a list of actions by President
Mamadou Tandja's government to have alarmed press watchdogs.

Two reporters for European TV station ARTE were arrested in
mid-December for violating the terms of their media
accreditation by filming rebel fighters in the Sahara instead of
reporting on bird flu as they had said they would.

After initial fears they could face the death penalty if
convicted, the two were released on bail in January.

In September, the government deported independent French TV
producer Francois Begeron after holding him for a month for
visiting northern Niger without its authorisation.

Date created : 2008-06-23