Judge threatens to strike out case against journalist Jones Abiri

Jones Abiri (Photo Credit: The Cable)
Jones Abiri (Photo Credit: The Cable)

The judge handling the trial of a journalist, Jones Abiri, has threatened to strike out the case.

Mr Abiri was released on Wednesday after meeting his bail conditions. His release came after the court reviewed his bail conditions which were eventually met on Wednesday.

The journalist was detained by the State Security Service, SSS, for two years without trial over allegations he was linked to armed militancy in the Niger Delta.

Despite local and international pressure, Nigerian officials, including the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, claimed Mr Abiri is not a journalist and tried to justify his illegal detention.

Mr Abiri, publisher and editor-in-chief of Weekly Source Newspaper, was eventually granted bail by an Abuja court after he was charged to court following public outcry.

Resuming at the court Thursday, a prosecution lawyer, Mohammad Tanko, pleaded with the court that the matter be adjourned because another prosecutor initially handling the matter was sick and had asked him (Tanko) to take charge. He said he was, however, not briefed on the matter comprehensively.

Responding, the defendant’s lawyer, Samuel Ogala, said on the last adjourned date, the court has asked the prosecution to serve them evidence which they (prosecutors) failed to do.

This, he said is in breach of section 350(2) of ACJA as it is mandatory to serve the defence such evidence. This is to ensure speed dispensation of justice, he said.

Mr Abiri’s lawyer also said any further adjournment will not serve justice to the defendant as he needs to reunite with his family after his prolonged incarceration.

Responding, the judge, Chukwuemeka Nweasons, said the reasons given by the prosecutors for an adjournment are not justifiable.

“I have earlier warned the prosecution that this court would not be used as a cell for storing cases. I am surprised that even the proof of evidence has not been served to the defence as ordered by this court.

“It is only a context of the first information, although only just an allegation. That is the reason why this court would not strike out this case as it has been applied (for) by counsel for the defendants.”

However, Mr Nweke said “in line with the provision of ACJA, I shall adjourn this case to August 17 for hearing.

“Let me make this clear, if by tomorrow, the proof of evidence has not been served for the defence and witnesses are not called, this case would be struck out,” he said.

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