Niger prosecutors seek up to 20 years for 'coup plotters'

Niamey - Public prosecutors in Niger on Friday requested jail terms of between 15 and 20 years against nine soldiers and a civilian accused of seeking to overthrow President Mahamadou Issoufou in 2015.

They sought a 20-year sentence against a General Souleymane Salou, the former chief of staff, who played a key role in a previous coup in 2010 against Issoufou's predecessor, Mamadou Tandja.

A similar term was sought for Lieutenant Ousmane Awal Hambaly, who had been accused, but later released, in 2012 of allegedly plotting against Issoufou; for two other soldiers; and for Salou's son, Niandou Salou, a civilian.

Other defendants in the three-day-old trial include Colonel Idi Abdou Dan Haoua, in charge of an air base near the capital Niamey, and Major Nare Maidoka, head of the 1st artillery battalion in Tillaberi, near the border with Mali.

According to the charge sheet, the plot entailed "arresting President Issoufou and the head of the presidential guard" on December 18, 2015 on his return from the central town of Maradi, where he attended celebrations for the nation's founding.

They would be "executed if they resisted arrest," according to the charges.

On December 17, 2015, Issoufou - who at the time was campaigning for a second term in office - announced that a coup had been thwarted. Two dozen people - soldiers, customs officials and civilians - were arrested.

The allegation was contested by the opposition which demanded proof.

In March 2017 a group of civilians, including political dissidents, were released in connection with the purported coup after being given a "partial dismissal" by a judge, their lawyer said.

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