Nigeria: U.S. Expresses 'Deep Concern' About Sowore's Arrest

Omoyele Sowore was rearrested in court by agents from the Department of State Security (DSS) the day after he was released on court order.
8 December 2019

The U.S. government has said it is 'deeply concerned' by the rearrest of Omoyele Sowore by the State Security Service (SSS).

The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor of the U.S. State Department expressed the American government's stance on its official Twitter handle.

"We are deeply concerned that #Sowore has been re-detained in #Nigeria, shortly after a court-ordered he be released on bail. Respect for rule of law, judicial independence, political and media freedom, and due process are key tenets of #democracy", it wrote.

Mr Sowore, who was arrested for calling for protests to demand good governance, was released on Thursday by the SSS after spending 125 days in detention despite two court orders mandating his release.

He is accused of treason and insulting President Muhammadu Buhari.

The SSS released him only after Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu handed a 24-hour ultimatum to the service. However, early Friday, heavily armed SSS agent invaded the court, physically assaulted and rearrested Mr Sowore.

PREMIUM TIMES' reporters who were at the court said armed agents entered the courtroom as the judge, lawyers and journalists scurried for cover.

Despite witnesses and video evidence, the SSS denied invading the court. The agency's reaction is coming amidst widespread outrage over the conduct of the secret police.

In a statement by its spokesperson, Peter Afunnaya, the SSS (also called DSS) said Mr Sowore was mobbed by his "supporters" who were trying to shield him from "an imaginary arrest."

"The DSS, as a professional, responsible and law-abiding organization, could not have invaded a courtroom including the one presided over by a respected Judge who is not only handling its case but whose Order was unconditionally obeyed within a 24-hour ultimatum. The Service holds the judiciary in utmost respect and will continue to work with it for national peace and public safety in Nigeria."

The agency did not, however, state why it rearrested the activist who it is still holding as at Sunday morning.

Apart from the American government, at least two U.S. lawmakers have also condemned the rearrest of Mr Sowore.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how a senator, Bob Menendez, raised concerns about the rearrest.

On Saturday, Josh Gottheimer, a Congressman, said he was 'deeply concerned' about the rearrest.

"@SenatorMenendez and I are deeply concerned about the re-arrest, harassment and ongoing detention in Nigeria of Omoyele Sowore from Haworth, NJ. We will continue working to ensure he is not deprived of his rights and will be able to return to his family safely," Mr Gottheimer wrote.

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