WASHINGTON, DC— Today, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the top Democrat on the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy, announced that Niger has released 17 of the 28 civil society activists who have been jailed since March for peacefully protesting against Niger’s new finance law. 11 activists remain imprisoned.

“It’s encouraging to see the Nigerien government release a number of activists who peacefully exercised their democratic right to free speech,” Booker said. “While this is an unmistakable sign of progress, a number of activists remain imprisoned, and I will keep speaking out in support of their rights. As the U.S. grows its security cooperation with Niger, it is important that we continue to press on the protection of human rights and good governance for the Nigerien people.”

The activists’ release comes following a bipartisan letter U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) led to the State Department last week, urging Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to increase pressure on Nigerien authorities to release the activists.

“We urge the State Department to speak out in support of civil society leaders jailed for exercising their freedom of expression, association, and assembly, which are protected under the Nigerian constitution and international human rights norms,” Booker and the Senators wrote in the letter.  “To send a clear and unmistakable signal to the government of Niger and the region, we ask that you call on the government of Niger to reaffirm its commitment to human rights by releasing the detained civil society activists and stopping the prosecution of citizens for exercising their democratic rights.”

In addition to Booker, last week’s letter was also signed by Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Chris Coons (D-DE), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Michael Bennet (D-CO).

Earlier this  year, Booker visited Niger as part of a Congressional delegation trip to Africa. During the trip he met with both civil society leaders and Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou to discuss security concerns and cooperation.