Niger: Release of civil society leader must signal end of attacks on human rights defenders

Responding to the news that Niger activist Sadat Illiya Dan Malam who spent 19 months behind bars is released from prison, Kiné-Fatim Diop, Amnesty International West Africa Campaigner said:

“The release of Sadat Illiya Dan Malam is a welcome news and we are delighted that he will now be reunited with his family and friends after spending 19 months in jail.

“While he can now enjoy his freedom, he should have never been arrested in the first place. All he was doing was voicing his concerns over the alleged devastating effects of the new finance law, taxes and austerity measures on small traders and low-income households. The fact that he was charged with insurrection and conspiracy against state security is absurd.

The release of Sadat Illiya Dan Malam is a welcome news and we are delighted that he will now be reunited with his family and friends after spending 19 months in jail.
Kiné-Fatim Diop, Amnesty International West Africa Campaigner

“Now that he is free, this is an opportunity for the Niger authorities to stop their persecution of human rights defenders and activists who continue to be harassed, intimidated and arbitrarily arrested for standing up for the rights of some of country’s poorest people.”

Background

Yesterday, an appeal court in the southern Niger town of Zinder has ordered the release of human rights defender Sadat Illiya Dan Malam who was arrested on 18 April 2018. At that time, several civil society organisations in Niger had been protesting a finance law that contains severe austerity measures.

Even though Sadat did not take part in the protests, he was charged with "participation in an insurrectionary movement" and "conspiracy against state security".

On 20 May 2019 these charges were downgraded to "insult against members of the political party PNDS Tarayya" (Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism) and the court ordered his release. However, the prosecutor appealed the decision and Sadat Illiya Dan Malam remained in detention until yesterday’s appeal court decision.

Sadat is a leading civil society figure and the coordinator of the Patriotic Movement for Citizenship (MPC in French) in Zinder.