UPDATED: Nigeria govt charges Sowore with treason

In what is clearly a brutal assault on free speech, Omoyele Sowore was arrested.
In what is clearly a brutal assault on free speech, Omoyele Sowore was arrested.

The Nigerian government has filed a seven-count charge of fraud and treasonable felony against the publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore.

The charges were filed about 50 days after Mr Sowore was arrested and detained by security operatives on August 3.

Officers of Nigeria’s secret police, SSS, had arrested Mr Sowore, in the build-up to the #RevolutionNow protest, and accused him of seeking to overthrow the incumbent government.

Mr Sowore’s lawyers, led by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, made attempts to secure his bail. The applications were, however, refused by the court which had granted a government request for a 45-day extension of Mr Sowore’s detention after he was held for about nine days in August.

The case which sparked public interest also resulted in a fundamental rights suit filed by Mr Sowore demanding his release.

On Friday the government filed formal charges accusing Mr Sowore of making several transfers of $16,975 and $20,475 from his domiciliary account with the United Bank for Africa with the intention to conceal the origin of the money.

Mr Sowore who was charged alongside another defendant, Olawole Bakare, was also accused of treason for his involvement in organizing the #RevolutionNow protest.

The protests held on August 5 in many states across Nigeria despite Mr Sowore’s arrest. Many people who partook in the protests were also arrested by security officials.

In the new charge, Mr Sowore is also accused of cyberstalking and disseminating information from an interview he had with a medium, Arise Television, despite knowing such information to be false.

If found guilty, Mr Sowore may spend a maximum of a life term in jail for the alleged offence.

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Mr Sowore’s detention has been condemned by activists and rights groups across Nigeria.

A protest organised in Lagos last week was almost disrupted by armed security operatives who barricaded the offices of Sahara Reporters and the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights with the belief the protests would start from there.

Some of the protesters still held their protest in the Ikeja area of Lagos.

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