CDHR, MRA, 48 others petition UN, AU over Sowore
Urge activist’s immediate release, analyst tasks judiciary on national interest
Fifty civil society groups, including the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and Socio Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) have written the United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU) over the continued detention of the organiser of #RevolutionNow protest, Omoyele Sowore, by the Federal Government.
Decrying his being kept in custody by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration amid a subsisting court ruling ordering his freedom, the groups demanded the immediate release of the publisher of the online news medium, Sahara Reporters.
The African Action Congress (AAC) candidate in this year’s presidential election was arrested on August 3 this year by the Department of State Services (DSS) for galvanising Nigerians against some ‘challenges’ in the polity.
A Federal High Court, Abuja had on September 24 ordered the secret police to release the pro-democracy campaigner.
The human rights and press freedom organisations are renewing their call on the two global and continental bodies to fast-track the freedom of the Ogun State native.
The activist had been charged under the Terrorism Act 2013 for treason and allegedly insulting the Nigerian leader in an interview.
A statement by MRA’s Programme Director, Ayode Longe, pointed out that a third charge concerns money laundering for reportedly repatriating funds from Sahara Reporters, his U.S.-based online news agency to its Nigerian account.
To Oluwadare Kolawole of SERAP, government had “invoked charges of treasonable felony to unjustifiably or arbitrarily restrict the right to freedom of opinion and expression undermine the essence of the criminal justice system and the rule of law.”
The others demanding the unconditional reprieve for the media mogul include the All Workers’ Convergence (AWC); Afrika Movement for Freedom and Justice (AMFJ); Agege Women Agenda (AWA); Amnesty International Nigeria; Amnesty International USA; ARTICLE 19 Senegal/West Africa; Chidi Odinkalu of Open Society Justice Initiative; Centre for Constitutional Rights; Centre for Human Rights and Social Justice (CHRSJ); Coalition for Revolution (CORE); Community Women Initiatives (CWI); The Concerned Forum; Congress of Progressive Youths (COPY); Democratic Youth League and Edo State Civil Society Organisation (EDOSCO).
In a related development, A Warri-based public affairs commentator, Ishmael Rufus, has cautioned the judiciary against sacrificing national interest on the altar of freedom of expression.
He insisted that that arm of government must accord priority to national security in considering bail for capital offence suspects.
Rufus was reacting yesterday in Abuja to the reprieve granted Sowore by the court.