Jailed Niger journalist's lawyer says tapes illegal

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NIAMEY, Oct 27 (Reuters) The lawyer representing Moussa Kaka, the correspondent of Radio France International (RFI) in Niger arrested last month, said today that tapes allegedly linking his client to Tuareg rebels had been illegally recorded.

Lawyer Moussa Coulibaly had previously denied that authorities held any evidence against his client, who was arrested on September 20 on suspicion of aiding an 8-month old Tuareg-led rebellion in northern Niger.

The lawyer told a news conference today that he had heard the telephone tapes but could not reveal their content due to legal restrictions.

''The secrecy of correspondence and communications is guaranteed by the constitution and the law does not allow illegal (phone) tapping without a judicial order,'' Coulibaly said.

''Even if my client has committed the crimes he is accused of, the judge must reject even the most decisive evidence if it ... was illegally obtained,'' he said.

The lawyer is also defending Ibrahim Manzo Diallo, the director of the fortnightly publication Air Info in the northern town of Agadez, who was arrested on October 9.

''Even today, we still do not know what he is accused of,'' Coulibaly said. ''The police say they are investigating his activities but as the legal period of detention without charge is 48 hours, renewable once, we must conclude he is arbitrarily detained.'' Another journalist of Air Info, David Yacouba, was arrested 72 hours ago in Agadez for unknown reasons.

The Niger Movement for Justice (MNJ) has killed more than 45 soldiers in its 8-month uprising to seek greater autonomy and government revenues for the uranium-rich north of Niger.

Around 200 journalists and human rights activities marched in Niger's capital Niamey last weekend to protest against Kaka and Diallo's detention and restrictions on media coverage of the rebellion. Foreign press watchdogs have also called for the journalists' release.

REUTERS SZ PM0130

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