Hundreds of political activists and journalists were held, often incommunicado, for periods of up to three months. Most of them were prisoners of conscience. Many of those detained were ill-treated or tortured by members of the security forces. In January, a military coup led by Colonel Ibrahim Baré Maïnassara overthrew the government, ousting Niger's first democratically elected President, Mahmane Ousmane, and putting an end to the multi-party political system set up in 1990. The coup leaders, who claimed that they were taking power in order to end a period of chaotic political deadlock, declared a state of emergency. The 1992 Constitution was suspended, parliament was dissolved and political parties were banned. Public demonstrations and all forms of political activity were prohibited. In May, a new Constitution was adopted, the state of emergency was lifted and presidential elections were called for July. The elections saw a new wave of political repression and widespread arrests. Gross irregularities occurred including the suspension of the Commission nationale électorale indépendante, National Independent Electoral Commission. Despite international and national condemnation of electoral irregularities, Ibrahim Barré Maïnassara was pronounced the winner. In November, legislative elections, which were boycotted by the main opposition parties, took place without violent incidents and resulted in a landslide victory for the President's supporters. Hundreds of political activists, most of them prisoners of conscience, were detained for short periods and then released. All these arrests took place without a warrant, and people were detained, often incommunicado and in secret, well beyond the time (48 hours, renewable once) during which a prisoner can legally be held without charge. All were released without charge and none had been charged or brought before a court by the end of the year. Those arrested included former members of government. After the military coup in January, the then President, Mahmane Ousmane, the Prime Minister, Hama Amadou, and the President of the National Assembly, Mohamadou Issoufou, were placed under house arrest for almost three months. None had advocated violence. They were prisoners of conscience. In July, following the presidential elections, the four opposition candidates were placed under house arrest for two weeks. They had called for peaceful protests against the election results. They were also prisoners of conscience. Opposition supporters in the capital, Niamey, and the second city, Zinder, were also detained. At least 40 people who were arrested in Niamey on 11 July, following a peaceful demonstration which was violently dispersed by the security forces, were prisoners of conscience. They were taken to Ekrafane, a military camp 300 kilometres north of Niamey, and held there for over a week. During this time they were tortured and ill-treated. Some had their heads shaved, others were beaten and some, including former government minister Massaoudou Hassoumi, were subjected to mock executions. Some of the 90 people arrested on the same day following a violent demonstration by opposition supporters were also reportedly subjected to beatings and mock executions. They were also alleged to have been forced to strip and simulate sexual acts. Journalists who denounced human rights violations or opposed the new military government were targeted. In February, Moulaye Abdoulaye, editor of the daily newspaper Le Soleil, was arrested by soldiers in Niamey. He was taken out of town, beaten and then released. On 7 July the first day of the election police raided the offices of a private radio station, Radio Anfani, detaining one journalist, Souleymane Issa Maïga, for several hours and suspending radio transmission for three weeks. Some journalists who were briefly arrested had their heads shaved, including Maman Abou, editor of the weekly newspaper Le Républicain and president of an association of independent newspaper editors. Two Niger nationals working for international press agencies were publicly threatened by the Minister of the Interior, Idi Ango Omar. None of the journalists had used or advocated violence, and those detained were prisoners of conscience. In October Amnesty International published a report, Niger: A major step backwards, in which it expressed concern at the bypassing by members of the police and the armed forces of legal provisions governing procedures for arrest and at the pattern of detention, torture, ill-treatment and intimidation of journalists and supporters of opposition parties. The organization called on the President to make restoring respect for human rights an absolute priority and urged that all allegations of human rights violations be investigated impartially and thoroughly and those responsible brought to justice, in order to prevent further incidents of torture and ill-treatment.
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