DAKAR (Reuters) – Niger’s ousted President Mohamed Bazoum is being held in a secret location by the junta that seized power in the West African state, lawyers representing him said on Friday, denying accusations that the president had tried to escape.
Bazoum has been in detention since a July 26 coup, and there have been international calls for him to be released.
The junta said late on Thursday that Bazoum and his family, with the help of accomplices in the security forces, had planned to drive a vehicle to the outskirts of the capital Niamey and catch a helicopter ride to neighbouring Nigeria.
Reuters was not able to confirm the account.
His lawyers rejected it as nothing but a concoction, however.
“We energetically reject these made-up accusations against President Bazoum,” Mohamed Seydou Diagne, one of Bazoum’s lawyers, said in the statement, adding that the junta had “crossed another red line with the secret detention.”
The lawyers said in the statement that Bazoum and his family had no access to lawyers or the outside world.
They were previously kept in the presidential residence in the capital Niamey where electricity had been cut since Aug. 2, and only one doctor could visit them every second day to take them supplies, they said.
The doctor was denied access on Friday, they added.
The lawyers demanded that the junta show proof that the president and wife and son were alive.
Niger’s coup was one of five that have swept West Africa’s central Sahel region in three years, leaving a vast band of arid terrain south of the Sahara Desert under the control of military rulers.
Like elected presidents in neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso, Bazoum was pushed out in part because of mounting insecurity caused by an Islamist insurgency that has killed thousands in the region and which the military said it would be able to contain better than a civilian government.
Bazoum’s party and family members say he has had no access to running water, electricity or fresh goods, prompting condemnation from the country’s former western allies.
(Reporting by Bate Felix; Editing by Hugh Lawson)