Supporters Say Opposition Activist, Reporter Released from Detention in Nigeria

WASHINGTON - Supporters of Nigerian activist and reporter Omoyele Sowore say he has been freed from state custody following a Thursday court ruling demanding his release.

A Nigerian court on Thursday ruled that state security officials have 24 hours to free the journalist and former presidential candidate, along with at least one of his two co-defendants, from what it called unlawful detention.

Word of Sowore's release first appeared on social media, followed by a report from Sahara Reporters, the New York-headquartered news outlet that Sowore founded in 2006.

Sowore, who campaigned against President Muhammadu Buhari as a minor candidate in February, has been jailed since taking to social media in August to urge protests against Buhari's second presidential term under the banner "#RevolutionNow."

Nigerian secret police immediately arrested Sowore, along with fellow pro-democracy advocates Olawale Bakare and Agba Jalingo, charging them with treason, "cyberstalking" the president, and money-laundering.

Before his arrest, Sowore regularly reported on official graft in Nigeria. His supporters have since called for nationwide protests against misrule in Nigeria, describing charges against the men as a politically motivated effort to stifle dissent in the oil-rich West African nation.

In Thursday's ruling, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court in Abuja also fined Nigeria's Department of State Services (DSS), the country's primary domestic intelligence agency, 100,000 naira ($278) for ignoring two court rulings to free the men on bail.

"The DSS cannot constitute itself as a parallel court of law," Ojukwu said. "So it must release the defendants within 24 hours."

DSS officials issued a statement in early November saying the detainees failed to meet conditions of bail, a claim Sowore's attorney, Femi Falana, has vehemently rejected.

"Upon meeting the bail conditions, Justice Ojukwu directed the [DSS] to release the defendants from detention," said Falana last month in a prepared statement. But, he said, in contempt of the orders of Justice Ojukwu, the State Security Service has refused to release them.

xxLast month, Sowore's supporters accused state police of opening fire on unarmed people staging a peaceful protest calling for the release of all three defendants. Although the security agency denied the allegations, footage that surfaced online tell another story.

Since being detained, Sowore, a Nigerian citizen, has been denied communication with with wife and two children, all of whom are U.S. citizens, according to The Washington Post.

Thursday's court ruling adjourned the trial till Friday.

Source: Voice of America

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