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Niger rights group urges prosecution of ousted president

[JURIST] Nigerien rights group, the United Front for the Safeguard of Democratic Assets (Fusad), called Tuesday for the prosecution of ousted president Mamadou Tandja [BBC profile] on treason charges. Fusad, which is allied with the opposition party that led last week's coup [JURIST report], claims that Tandja is guilty of corruption violating the constitution [AFP report], and alleges that he gave out contracts to foreign oil and uranium firms. Late Monday, the military junta, which is calling itself the Supreme Council for Restoration of Democracy (CSRD), announced [SAPA report] over state radio that Major Salou Djibo [Xinhua profile] will act as Niger's new head of state. As interim president, Dijbo will have the power to appoint the prime minister and remove ministers. The junta also announced the creation of a task force to draft a new constitution and electoral laws as well as a constitutional committee and a court to replace those that were dissolved [JURIST report] following last week's coup. The junta has given no time-frame for the transition to civilian rule, but the CSRD has promised to turn Niger into a democracy. President Seini Oumarou of the former ruling party, the National Movement for Society and Development (MNSD) has condemned the coup [VOA report], as Tandja and his prime minister remain under house arrest.

Last week's coup, which left at least three Nigerien soldiers dead, comes six months after a referendum was passed abolishing presidential term limits [JURIST reports] and allowing Tandja to remain in office for three more years and to run in any subsequent elections. Niger's opposition parties denounced the referendum, claiming that Tandja inflated poll numbers to support the new constitution's adoption. In September, members of the opposition parties said that police had detained 30 former opposition lawmakers [JURIST report], allegedly at the behest of Tandja. The 30 former members of parliament were arrested on charges of embezzlement [AFP report], but were likely being targeted for their dissidence, as they refused to recognize Tandja's expansion of powers. One week later, leader of the opposition Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS) [party website, in French], Mahamadou Issoufou, was charged with financial crimes [JURIST report]. The PNDS claimed the corruption charges were politically motivated [BBC report]. Niger [CIA World Factbook profile], which is known for its exportation of uranium, has gone through five constitutions and military regimes since its founding in 1960.

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