Niger: court orders the release of a general imprisoned since 2015

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Niger’s courts on Tuesday ordered the release of General Souleymane Salou, a former army chief of staff who was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2018 for his involvement in a coup attempt in 2015, AFP learned from his entourage.

“There was a ruling (on appeal) on Tuesday and the judge ordered his release,” a source close to General Salou told AFP, indicating that his release from prison “will not be long in coming”.

A source close to the soldiers who overthrew the civilian president Mohamed Bazoum in July confirmed the decision to release General Salou, aged 70.

An air force officer, General Souleymane Salou was a member of the junta that overthrew President Mamadou Tandja in 2010 when he was appointed Chief of Staff until elections were held in 2011, which Mahamadou Issoufou won.

On 17 December 2015, President Issoufou, who was then seeking a second term in office, claimed that an attempted coup had been foiled, justifying the arrest of twelve soldiers, including General Salou, three customs officers and around ten civilians.

In January 2018, a military court sentenced General Salou, his son and eight soldiers to between five and 15 years in prison for their involvement in the coup attempt.

General Salou was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment, which he has since been serving in a prison in the interior of the country. The court found them “guilty of fomenting between November and December 2015 a plot to undermine the authority or security of the State”, according to the verdict.

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At the time of the arrests, the opposition had expressed scepticism about the reality of the coup attempt. Niger has been ruled since 26 July by the military, who overthrew the civilian president Mohamed Bazoum, who has since been held in his official residence.

At the beginning of September, Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine, the regime-appointed prime minister of Niger, gave assurances that measures would be taken to release “political prisoners” of the deposed regime.

In mid-September, former prime minister Hama Amadou, a fierce opponent of deposed president Mohamed Bazoum, returned to Niamey after more than two years in France.

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