2 August 2018

Nigeria: Journalist Jones Abiri Appears in Court, Moved to Keffi Prison

Photo: Twitter
Jones Abiri has been detained, without charge, since 21 July 2016.

Nigerian journalist Jones Abiri has been taken to a federal prison in Nasarawa State after appearing in court on Thursday for the continuation of his trial.

The State Security Service charged Mr Abiri for alleged militancy on July 27, two years after arresting him.

The trial resumed Thursday at the Chief Magistrate's Court, Wuse Zone 2, Abuja, during which Mr Abiri told of his experience at the secret police's facility in Abuja. He was arraigned alongside Collins Opume, said to be a student and aide to Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson.

The two had been granted bail since July 27, but Mr Abiri's lawyers said the conditions were too stringent and are prevailing on the court to relax the demands. He was initially sent back to the SSS custody last week.

But at the resumed hearing Thursday, the court said Mr Abiri should be taken to the federal prisons in Keffi, about 45 kilometres southeast of Abuja.

Mr Abiri, publisher of Weekly Source magazine, was arrested on July 21, 2016 at his office in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, on allegations that he was a key militant terrorising locals and expatriates in the restive oil-rich region.

His arrest and continued detention elicited outrage from journalists and other media rights groups.

After keeping mum for several months, the SSS later disclosed that Mr Abiri wrote a confessional statement of his involvement in the crime while in custody.

This claim, alongside several similar allegations propagated against Mr Abiri by the SSS and other government officials was rejected by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Although Mr Abiri said he had no complaints about the detention environment, he found his long-drawn detention "pathetic."

"It is a pathetic situation for me to be facing this kind of persecution," Mr Abiri said, expressing his resolve to persevere through and "come out from this case."

He also denied ties to Mr Opume, with whom the SSS said the alleged militancy activities, including threats to shakedown multinational oil companies for up to N500 million, were perpetrated.

The magistrate, Chukwuemeka Nweke, has fixed August 8 for a possible revision of the bail conditions, following demands from the defense lawyers.

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