[JURIST] The appeals court in Niger’s capital Niamey ordered the release of former president Mamadou Tandja [BBC profile] Tuesday after dropping all charges against the ousted leader. Tandja has been in custody for 14 months [AP report] following a military coup [JURIST report] in February 2010. The military junta charged Tandja with corruption [Reuters report] following his removal, based on a junta investigation that found USD $128 million was stolen during Tandja’s 10-year presidency. The appeals court ruled that it was impossible to try a head of state after leaving office. The prosecution has not reacted to Tandja’s release.
In November, voters in Niger have overwhelmingly approved a new constitution [JURIST report]. The Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy (CSRD) suspended the previous constitution [JURIST reports], which allowed Tandja to remain in office for three more years and to run in any subsequent elections. The constitution is Niger’s seventh since independence from France in 1960. In September 2009, members of Nigerien opposition parties said that police had detained 30 former opposition lawmakers allegedly at the behest of Tandja. The 30 former members of parliament were arrested on charges of embezzlement [JURIST report], but were likely being targeted for their dissidence, as they refused to recognize Tandja’s expansion of powers. In February of last year, Nigerien rights group, the United Front for the Safeguard of Democratic Assets (Fusad), pushed for the prosecution [JURIST report] of Tandja on treason charges and corruption violating the constitution shortly after the coup.