Niger has issued an arrest warrant for the parliament speaker, a leading opposition figure who fled the country after being sought for questioning on suspicion of involvement in a baby-trafficking ring, judicial sources said on Monday.
Hama Amadou, an ally turned political rival of President Mahamadou Issoufou, fled to Burkina Faso then to France last month after parliamentary leaders authorized his arrest.
“The gendarmerie was the first to receive the national arrest warrant issued for Hama Amadou,” a member of the judicial police told Reuters, asking not to be identified. “It distributed the order across the country, particularly to other security forces.”
Two other judicial sources confirmed the existence of the warrant.
“If the national search doesn't bear fruit, the judge can issue an international arrest warrant, in which case Interpol would be notified,” said a judge, who also asked not to be identified, referring to an international police network.
Seventeen people, including the wives of several senior politicians, were arrested in June by police investigating allegations they acquired new-born babies from “baby factories” in neighboring Nigeria. Hama's wife was among those initially taken into custody.
Hama has denied accusations that he may have been involved in baby-trafficking and says the investigation is politically motivated.
Political tensions have risen in Niger since last year when Hama, who had been part of Issoufou's coalition, fell out with the president.
Issoufou's government has accused him and his Nigerien Democratic Movement (MODEN) party of trying to destabilize the uranium-exporting, West African nation.