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Activist challenges DSS over continued detention of newspaper publisher, dismisses claims that he is a notorious militant leader

By News Express on 09/08/2016

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A Human and Environmental Rights Activist, Mr. Alagoa Morris, on Monday challenged the Department of State Security (DSS) to arraign detained Bayelsa based journalist, Jones Abiri, before a court if its claim were factual.

Alagoa, a Project Officer and Head of Bayelsa Field Operations at Environmental Right Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), made the call in a statement issued in Yenagoa. He noted that only a court of competent jurisdiction could convict a suspect and dispense punishment.

He said that the DSS cannot be accuser and judge at the same time. Abiri, Publisher of a Yenagoa-based Weekly Source, a local tabloid was arrested on June 21 by DSS operatives in his office in Bayelsa and subsequently detained in Abuja.

The DSS had in a statement in June, alleged that he was a notorious militant leader who had made confessional statements.

Alagoa, who is immediate past Secretary of Civil Liberties Organization in Bayelsa, said that Abiri, who he knew for over 20 years, was a reputable journalist and publisher of a community newspaper.

“Abiri is a known journalist in Bayelsa and to the best of my knowledge, he is a gentleman until his arrest by the DSS recently.

“Knowing him from the perspective of a fellow community folk, a brother-in-law and as a journalist never suggested anything associated with the kind of crimes the DSS is alleging he committed.

“I have known Abiri for over 20 years and he had never struck me; not even in my wildest imaginations, as a criminal or militant or belonging to any terrorist organisation,” Morris said.

According to him, the allegations levelled against Abiri are shocking and heavy and require to be proved in court.

“This is more so by the claims that he has already confessed to some of the allegations.

“The concern here is, what the DSS fed the public via the purported press release might be true, but it might also be false.

“So in line with the rule of law, if the state has found Abiri culpable of any of the alleged crimes; what the human rights community expects from the authorities is to charge him to court.

Morris added that the executive could not do both interpretation of the law and execution at the same time.

“It is my belief that Nigeria has advanced to the extent that persons accused of such crimes as alleged, appear in court within 48 hours of arrest,” Morris said.

Morris noted that while the DSS was expected to be professional in the discharge of its duties, the method of obtaining evidence from Abiri was a matter of concern.

He said this was so because the state abhorred obtaining evidence under duress or torture.

“We are aware that obtaining evidence via torture is not allowed by the 1999, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Right.

“This is the more reason such suspects should be presented in court as soon as possible; as all accused persons no matter the crime, are entitled to fair hearing by the law,” he said.

He, however, said that while the security agencies needed to be commended for their efforts in trying to contain the security challenges in the country, they should respect the rule of law.

The security agencies according to him should align their operations to democratic ethos bothering on security and human rights.

He said that under Nigeria’s laws, all accused persons are deemed innocent until proved otherwise in a court of competent jurisdiction and Abiri’s case should not be an exception.

Morris argued that prolonged detention of suspects without prosecution did not speak well of the country and urged that the suspect should be allowed legal representation and access to family and lawyers.

The activist maintained that he remained in full support of the ongoing fight against corruption, kidnappings, sea piracy and all forms of terrorism.

He said that anyone found guilty of such crimes should be dealt with according to the dictates of the law of the land which was interpreted and administered by only the judiciary.

•Photo shows detained Chief Jones Abiri.

Source News Express

Posted 09/08/2016 05:35:54 AM





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