The United Nations and West Africa's main regional bloc have strongly condemned a threat by Niger's coup leaders to prosecute the country's ousted president for "high treason."
On Sunday night, the coup leaders, who deposed President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26, accused him of "undermining the internal and external security of Niger." They added that "necessary evidence" has been gathered to prosecute Bazoum "before competent national and international authorities."
Reacting to the threat on Monday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, called it "very worrying."
"We remain extremely concerned about the state of being, the health, and safety of the president and his family, and again we call for his immediate and unconditional release and his reinstatement as head of state," he told reporters.
Bazoum and his family have been held at their official residence in the capital Niamey since the coup and he could face death penalty if found guilty.
Also on Monday, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said it had been shocked to learn about attempts by Niger's junta to bring charges of high treason against the ousted president.
Issuing a statement, the bloc described the move as "a form of provocation by Niger's coup leaders," which contradicts their reported willingness to find a peaceful solution to the current crisis.
On July 30, ECOWAS gave the coup leaders a week to return Bazoum to power or face consequences, including the use of force. The deadline expired last Sunday.
The body has approved the deployment of a "standby force to restore constitutional order" in Niger.
Niger's coup leader, General Abdourahamane Tiani, who heads the country's powerful presidential guard, has claimed that he is ready to consider a diplomatic solution to the existing standoff with ECOWAS.
Earlier on Monday, the African Union (AU) held its first talks on the situation in Niger at its headquarters in the Ethiopian capital city of Addis Ababa .
"AU's Peace & Security Council meets to receive an update on the evolution of the situation in Niger and the efforts to address it," the pan-African body said in a post on X social media platform, formerly known as Twitter.
At #AUHQ: Update on the Situation in #Niger: #AU Peace & Security Council meets to receive an update on the evolution of the situation in #Niger and the efforts to address it. Meeting chaired by Amb. @willynyamitwe of #Burundi and #PSC Chair of the Month.. pic.twitter.com/ZLTdri43lB— African Union Political Affairs Peace and Security (@AUC_PAPS) August 14, 2023
Those attending included AU Commission chief, Moussa Faki Mahamat, as well as representatives from Niger and ECOWAS, it said.
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