The defence wants the trial suspended indefinitely.
An FCT High Court on Wednesday in Abuja granted hearing on a motion seeking to suspend indefinitely the trial of two journalists with the Leadership Newspapers.
Justice Usman Musale said it was necessary to give the defence counsel, Femi Falana, the opportunity to explain the motion for indefinite suspension of the trial.
“It will also give the prosecution the opportunity to respond in line with fair hearing,’’ he said.
The judge said the issue calling for his attention was whether or not the application was ripe for hearing as argued by the opposing lawyers.
“The section relied upon by Falana is 36 sub 6 of the Constitution which provides for an accused person to be given adequate time and facilities to open his defence.
“This constitutional provision has not been faulted or queried,” he said.
Mr. Musale said the application deserved to be heard since it had been filed, adding that there was no need rushing to trial when a related issue had yet to be resolved.
“Since the application has been filed and served, and since the prosecution counsel says he is opposing the application, he ought to be given the right to oppose by giving him time to do so,’’ he said.
The judge said failure to do so would be a breach of the right to fair hearing “which occurs when a party is denied the opportunity to state his case.
“Fair hearing implies that the court gives equal treatment, opportunity and consideration to all concerned and that justice must manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to have been done.
“This shall apply to both the case and all pertaining issues,’’ Mr. Musale said.
He adjourned the case to July 23 for hearing of the motion and ruled that the accused persons’ bail should continue.
At the resumed hearing of the case on Tuesday, Mr. Falana had moved the motion for the trial’s indefinite suspension.
He said this was as a result of his subpoena on President Goodluck Jonathan to appear in court as a witness.
“Since the President enjoyed immunity and cannot be compelled to appear in court, the case should be suspended until his immunity ceases,’’ the lawyer had argued.
Mr. Awomolo had opposed the motion on the ground that, having been served at 4.30 p.m. the previous day, the motion was not ripe for hearing.
He argued that the proper time to hear the motion was when the trial had commenced and the accused persons called upon to open defence.
The lawyer said the President, being a proposed witness of the accused persons, was not supposed to affect the prosecution of the case.
Tony Amokeodo, the Political Editor of Leadership Newspapers, as well as Chibuzor Ukaibe, a political reporter with the media house, are facing an 11-count charge of forgery and felony.
They were charged alongside the media house’s Company Secretary, Omofuma Juliane.
They were re-arraigned in the court on June 27 after they had been discharged by a Federal High Court on April 30 following the withdrawal of the charges by the Federal Government. The journalists are being tried over a story, based on sources and documents, accusing the presidency of a plot to clampdown on opposition leaders. The presidency accused them of using a document with forged presidential seal.
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