A Niger opposition leader is to go on trial on Tuesday on charges of incitement to violence and sedition, his lawyer said, in a case that critics say highlights growing repression under President Mahamadou Issoufou’s government.
Amadou Djibo, leader of the Front for the Restoration of Democracy and the Defence of Democracy (FRDDR), could be sentenced to between 10 and 20 years in jail if convicted, according to Niger’s criminal court.
Djibo was arrested on Tuesday while returning home from a mosque and appeared before a judge on Thursday, his lawyer Mossi Boubacar told Reuters. Opposition parties say they have organised a protest march for Saturday in the capital, Niamey.
The charges stem from a speech delivered to the main opposition party, MODEN, last Thursday in which Djibo called on his supporters to turn out in large numbers to defend democracy.
Issoufou was elected in 2011 and won a second term by a landslide last year. His main challenger, Hama Amadou, was held in jail for several months before the vote on charges of baby trafficking, accusations that he dismissed as politically motivated.
Amadou was released from jail to fly to France for medical treatment and has not returned. In his absence, Djibo has taken over as head of a group of opposition parties that say they are increasingly subject to repression.
The government, which has worked closely with Western partners to boost security in the face of an insurgency by Islamist militants, has not commented on the accusation.
Last week, a civil society activist in the central Agadez region, around 900 km (550 miles) northeast of the capital Niamey, was detained after calling in a Facebook post for the defense of democracy.
Last month, one student died and more than 100 were wounded, the government said, in clashes with police as students protested against poor working and living conditions in Niamey.
Niger is one of the world’s top producers of uranium but ranks near the bottom of the U.N. Human Development Index.