Drama as Sowore is arraigned, denied bail
• May get reprieve on Friday
There was a mild drama yesterday at the Federal High Court, Abuja during the arraignment of the publisher of the online news medium, Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, alongside Olawale Bakare. When the matter was called, the defendants expectantly mounted the accused box but the absence of the lead counsel, Femi Falana (SAN), caused some concerns, as one A. Olumide, announced appearance for him, informing the court that he was out of the country.
So, when the prosecution, the Department of State Security Services (DSS) told the court that it was ready for arraignment, the defense counsel claimed otherwise, stressing that they were not in a position to take their pleas since their lawyer was absent in court.
According to him, having access to their lawyers would bring the defendants to the understanding of all that was needed for the appearance and enable them plead guilty or not. Olumide further told Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu that he only got to know that Falana was out of the country late Sunday during their discussion where he also learnt that the defendants had been denied access to their lawyers.
“The DSS did not allow their lawyer to see them and consequently, they are not prepared for arraignment,” he added.But the prosecution counsel, Hassan Liman (SAN), objected, noting that they were giving the impression that the matter had been heard in another court.
At this point, the defense counsel reminded the court of an earlier pronouncement made by Justice Taiwo Taiwo ordering Sowore’s immediate release, which was not obeyed.After entertaining their arguments, Justice Ojukwu ruled that the defendants were at liberty to take their pleas provided they understood the charges brought against them.
Consequently, the judge called upon Sowore to take his plea. The drama however ensued when the charges were read out to him. While he pleaded guilty out rightly to some, he feigned ignorance of the implications of others and had to wait for his lawyer’s prompting to plead not guilty.
At the end, the convener of #RevolutionNow pleaded innocence to the entire seven-count charge bordering on treasonable felony and money laundering.
At this point, the prosecution announced that investigation had been concluded on the detainee and were ready for hearing. This prompted the defense lawyer to seek the release of the defendants, who have been in detention since August 3.
After rejecting an oral bail application for the second defendant, the presiding judge advised the defense to, in the interim, file a bail application for both defendants. She also noted that the previous bail ruling by Justice Taiwo was not premised on the charges before her court. Justice Ojukwu therefore ordered the defendants to be remanded in DSS custody pending hearing of their bail application on October 4.
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