‘Activist’s release victory for rule of law’

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SOCIO-ECONOMIC Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has applauded the ruling by Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja that the Convener of #RevolutionNow protest, Mr. Omoyele Sowore, be immediately released from the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS).

The organisation described the ruling as “a victory for the rule of law, human rights and judicial independence”.

In a statement by its Deputy Director Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP said: “It’s a huge relief that Sowore will be freed and can finally return to his family and journalism work. He should never have been detained in the first place. The Nigerian authorities should now withdraw all the charges against him and allow freedom of expression and media freedom to flourish. It’s good for everyone.

“The Nigerian authorities now have to fully comply with this ruling by immediately releasing Sowore. The decision is a timely reminder of Nigeria’s constitutional and international obligations to protect journalists, activists and Nigerians in general, and to put a stop to its current practice of restricting the civic space.

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“We hope this decision will make the Nigerian authorities and state governors stop and reflect on their crackdown on freedom of expression and media freedom, including online, and help to end other human rights violations of journalists and (other) citizens in general. Other journalists, like Agba Jalingo and Ekanem Ekpo, currently being detained, must be immediately and unconditionally released.

“If a court found it possible to release Sowore, we are sure that all the circumstances were studied, and an objective decision was made.”

Last Saturday, SERAP sent an open letter to the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice Mr Abukabar Malami (SAN), urging him to use his position “to without delay enter a nolle prosequi (unwillingness to pursue) and discontinue the prosecution of Sowore, who is also the publisher of Sahara Reporters, and Olawale Bakare (aka Mandate) for apparently politically motivated charges of treason, fraud and ‘insulting President Muhammadu Buhari’”.

SERAP added: “We urge you to use your role as a trustee of the public interest under Section 174 of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended) to end several of similar trumped-up cases going on in several states.

“Sowore’s case and several similar cases instigated/brought by state governors make a hideous mockery of Nigeria’s criminal justice systems, rule of law, freedom of expression and media freedom. These cases are persecution and not prosecution. As guardian of the public interest, you have a role to end this travesty now and to maintain the sanctity and integrity of Nigeria’s justice system.

“These cases set a dangerous precedent for the misuse and subversion of the justice system, which may lead to the politicisation of the Judiciary. This will be bad for everyone -ordinary citizens, journalists and even the politicians in power – as they may themselves become targets of these repressive and abusive tactics when they are out of power/in opposition.”

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