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Niger junta arrests ex-ministers for subversive activities

[JURIST] Nigerien police arrested a dozen former ministers and officials loyal to ousted president Mamadou Tandja [BBC profile] late Sunday. The close aides to Tandja, including former finance minister Lamine Zeine, former justice minister Garba Lompo, and former minister of public works Lamido Oumarou, were detained and questioned on charges of plotting and carrying out subversive activities [BBC report] against the military junta. Interior Minister Cisse Ousmane asserted over state television that there would be strict enforcement [Reuters report] against activities that disturb the peace and public order. After last month’s coup [JURIST report], acting head of state Major Salou Djibo [Xinhua profile] pledged to clean up the corruption, and the military junta, which is calling itself the Supreme Council for Restoration of Democracy (CSRD), has promised to turn Niger into a democracy. While the CSRD announced the creation of a task force to draft a new constitution and electoral laws, a constitutional committee, and a court to replace those that were dissolved [JURIST report] following the coup, it has given no time frame for the transition to civilian rule. International observers have urged the junta to hold elections and Niger has since been expelled [press release, PDF] from the African Union [official website].

The February coup, which left at least three Nigerien soldiers dead, was in response to a referendum abolishing presidential term limits [JURIST report], 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. After the coup, Nigerien rights group United Front for the Safeguard of Democratic Assets (Fusad), called for the prosecution of Tandja [JURIST report] on treason charges. Allied with the opposition party, Fusad 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. Niger [CIA World Factbook profile], which is known for its exportation of uranium, has gone through five constitutions and military regimes since it's founding in 1960.

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