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Niger opposition leader charged with corruption after protesting constitution

[JURIST] A Niger opposition leader who opposed a constitutional referendum [JURIST report] to allow President Mamadou Tandja [BBC profile] to remain in office said Monday that he had been charged with financial crimes. Mahamadou Issoufou, leader of the Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS) [party website, in French], claims the corruption charges are politically motivated [BBC report]. The charges against Issoufou come after three former lawmakers and a parliament official were jailed [AFP report] last week for embezzlement and 30 former lawmakers were arrested for embezzlement [JURIST report] earlier this month. Issoufou, who was barred from leaving the country [AFP report] last week, has been released on bail.

The Niger opposition has pledged to oppose [JURIST report] Tandja's new constitution. Among the constitutional changes is the abolition of a presidential two-term limit, allowing Tandja to remain in office for three more years [AFP report] and to run in any subsequent elections. The new constitution also allows the president to appoint one third of the members [CBC report] of a newly-created Senate, and establishes a media-monitoring position that would have the authority to jail reporters thought to present a threat to the country. In June, opposition leader Bazoum Mohamed of the PNDS accused Tandja of committing a coup d'etat [JURIST report] by annulling the West African country's Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court ruled in May that plans to hold a referendum on allowing a third term were unconstitutional. Tandja responded to the ruling by dissolving parliament and assuming emergency powers.

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