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Court grants prosecutor leave to mask witness in case against journalist Agba Jalingo

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A Federal High Court sitting in Calabar, the Cross River State capital, has granted leave to the prosecution to mask its witness in a case between the state and journalist and rights activist, Agba Jalingo.

Jalingo is facing four charges bordering on terrorism, treasonable felony and attempt to topple Cross River State government.

The presiding judge, Justice Simon Amobeda, in his ruling yesterday, relied on Sections 33 and 34 of the Terrorism Prevention and Amendment Act 2013 as well as International Conventions, including those of the United Nations and African Commission of Human and People’s Rights, among others, to grant the plea of the prosecution.

“The public and the press will not be allowed into the courtroom when the witness is testifying,” the judge ruled.

He also held that the witness would testify behind curtains in a cubicle and to a camera. The defendant and his counsel will also not be privy to the name, alias or any other detail of the witness.

The prosecution counsel, Dennis Tarhemba, had on October 11, 2019 filed a motion seeking the amendment of charges and to protect the witness.

The motion was supported by an eight-paragraph affidavit deposed to by Inspector Ihezuo Ibe and accompanied by a written address.

During the hearing, the counsel to the defendant, James Ibor, submitted that the defendant does not constitute a threat and faulted the application for the masking of the witness, as there was no proper evidence as to when, where and how the witness was threatened.

He also said that the person said to have carried out the threat was not named even as he posited that masking of the witness would not be in the interest of justice.

The matter was adjourned till Wednesday, October 30, 2019 for commencement of trial with Jalingo remanded in the custody of the Nigerian Correctional Service where he had spent 29 days so far.


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