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Regional Court to Decide on Detention of Former Niger President

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A West African regional court in Nigeria says it will make a decision next month on the case of ousted Niger President Mamadou Tandja, who has been detained since a February coup.

A West African regional ECOWAS court said Tuesday it will rule on the legality of detaining ousted Niger president Mamadou Tandja on September 17.  He is being held in Niamey by Niger's ruling military government, which forced him out of office in a February coup.

Former President Tandja's lawyer, Sule Oumaru, says he is being detained illegally. Oumaru says the military leaders have no right to forbid Mr. Tandja to see his family and lawyer.

The case became more complex when the former leader sent out two letters dated July 22 asking the ruling military government for clemency and stated that he would like the ECOWAS courts to withdraw an earlier request that they take up his case.  He maintains the request was made by his family, not him.

Oumaru said the letters should be ignored, because they did not come directly from the former Niger president.

A lawyer for the ruling military government, Lopy Bakary, says the July 22 letters, which include Mr. Tandja's signature, should be considered an appeal that is irrevocable.

The 72-year-old former president reportedly said in his letter that his poor health would stand in the way of a trial.

Mr. Tandja was ousted in February by the army several months after he amended the constitution to extend his term in office.

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