Niger’s military says it will prosecute deposed President Mohamed Bazoum for treason, hours after a group of senior Islamic scholars said the country’s coup leaders are open to diplomacy to resolve their standoff with West Africa’s regional bloc.
In a statement read out on national television late on Sunday, a spokesman for Niger’s military laid out the charges against Bazoum as “high treason and undermining the internal and external security” of the country.
Bazoum, 63, and his family have been held at the president’s official residence in Niamey since the coup on July 26, with international concern mounting over their conditions in detention.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has called for Bazoum’s reinstatement, imposing severe economic sanctions on Niger and threatening military intervention if civilian rule is not restored.
Still, the West African bloc, which has approved the deployment of a “standby force to restore constitutional order” in Niger, has said it remains committed to finding a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
The spokesman for Niger’s military, Colonel Major Amadou Abdramane, in his statement on Sunday, dismissed concerns over Bazoum’s health, saying the deposed leader had seen his doctor the previous day.
“After this visit, the doctor raised no problems regarding the state of health of the deposed president and members of his family,” he said.
Abdramane went on to slam ECOWAS sanctions on Niger, saying the “illegal, inhumane and humiliating” measures were making it difficult for people to access medicines, food and electricity.
The statement came just hours after a group of Nigerian Islamic scholars announced a meeting with Niger’s coup leader Abdourahamane Tchiani in Niamey and said the general had agreed to hold “direct talks” with ECOWAS.