Court dismisses terrorism charges against journalist Agba Jalingo
A Federal High Court in Calabar has dismissed the terrorism, treasonable felony, and cybercrime charges against journalist Agba Jalingo.
Jalingo, the publisher of an online newspaper, CrossRiverWatch, was arrested in August 2019 for accusing the Cross River State Governor, Ben Ayade, of diverting N500 million state funds.
He was charged for terrorism, treasonable felony, and cybercrime, and held in detention for about 179 days amid protests and calls for his freedom.
On Monday, the judge, Ijeoma Ojukwu, dismissed the charges against Jalingo after the Cross River State Government withdrew the charges against him, CrossRiverWatch reported.
Jalingo’s lawyer, Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika, SAN, commended the Cross River State attorney-general for withdrawing the charges against the journalist.
“We are happy that our harassment has ended,” said Mr Olumide-Fusika who was accompanied by two other lawyers, F. Baba Isa and Kehole Enya.
On Monday, Jalingo told PREMIUM TIMES, he always knew that the court would rule in his favour in the case.
“I knew from day one that I did not commit the offence, I knew it was just a matter of time for the court to throw the matter away,” Jalingo said.
“It’s just painful that our system is skewed in this manner where three years of my time has been wasted coming from Lagos to Calabar because of a sham trial.”
Amnesty International in Nigeria had accused the Nigerian government of manipulating the judicial system against Jalingo.
“While Agba Jalingo is detained for his critical opinions, both Cross River and federal governments are collaborating, through the manipulation of the criminal justice system to keep him behind bars,” the Amnesty spokesperson, Sanusi Isa, said in February 2020.
Isa said Agba Jalingo’s trial fell short of international standards of fairness, “especially because the court has allowed witnesses to be masked and the trial to be held in secret.”
“The flawed charges and sham trial of Agba Jalingo have exposed the inadequacies and manipulation of the Nigerian criminal justice system and an unacceptable contempt for human rights and the rule of law,” Isa said.