REPUBLIC OF CHAD: Release of online activist following global campaign must signal end of repression of dissidents

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13 Apr 2018
[International Secretariat]

A court in the capital city N’Djamena yesterday ordered the release of Tadjadine Mahamat Babouri, known as Mahadine, who had been detained since 30 September 2016, after having posted several videos on Facebook criticizing the government’s management of public funds.

“We are delighted that Mahadine has been released .

“More than half a million people from across the world signed letters and petitions calling for Mahadine’s release, and they too will be delighted to know that he is finally free.”

Mahadine had originally been charged with undermining threatening territorial integrity and national security. If he had been convicted he could have faced life imprisonment.

However, in March 2018, these trumped-up charges were dropped and replaced with the much lesser charge of defamation. Following this requalification, the court recognized that he had passed the 48-hour limit for preventative detention and ordered his release. He will appear again before the court on 19 April, but should not be imprisoned again as defamation cannot be punished with imprisonment under Chadian law.

Mahadine was one of 10 prisoners of conscience who were highlighted as part of Amnesty International’s annual Write for Rights campaign in 2017. Over 690,000 actions were taken from people across the globe for his immediate release.

Mahadine is one of dozens of human rights defenders, civil society activists and journalists in Chad who have been arbitrarily arrested in recent years for criticizing the government. In September 2017 Amnesty International documented the sustained increase in repression since both the 2015 presidential elections and the introduction of severe austerity measures to combat the country’s sharp economic crisis.

It is good news that Mahadine has finally been freed, but real and lasting change in Chad will mean reforming laws and practices to ensure that no one can be arrested simply for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression.

6 April 2018

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