Jones Abiri still detained by Nigeria

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in New York has called on Nigerian authorities to immediately release Jones Abiri, the publisher and editor-in-chief of the Weekly Source newspaper.

Nigerian journalist, Jones Abiri illegally detained by Nigerian Security Service since 2016.

Jones Abiri was arrested by Nigeria’s state security service in July 2016 and has been in jail without trial since his arrest two years ago.

Abiri was brought to court on Friday in Abuja, his second court appearance in a week after two years in detention without family visitation.

His lead counsel,  Femi Falana confirmed that Abiri was charged at the first hearing with sending text messages to two oil companies, Shell and Agip, allegedly demanding bribe payments, but the state couldn’t produce witnesses to testify against Abiri.

A lawyer for the DSS, Jamilu Hamisu says the Department of State Security (DSS) witnesses were unable to attend because they were out of the country.

Falana said the court had initially set a bail of two million naira (US$5,555) and required that two high level civil servants serve as guarantors before Abiri could be granted bail. During Friday’s court proceedings, Abiri’s counsel Marshall Abubakar petitioned to have the bail conditions revised, an ICIR report states. But the state prosecutor appealed against the petition and  the magistrate adjourned the matter for another hearing on August 8 to determine whether the bail conditions should be revised.

Jones Abiri, left, pictured at a court appearance in Abuja. Photo: Ahmad Salkida

Nigeria’s  Premium Times reported that Abiri has been moved from the DSS detention center in Abuja to a general prison facility in Keffi, located in Nasarawa state after his second appearance in court.

The current trial is happening in the wake of a July 3 lawsuit lawsuit of 200 million Naira (US$555,555) that Falana filed against the DSS in a federal high court on Abiri’s behalf, accusing the DSS of violating the journalist’s fundamental rights. A hearing date is yet to be set for the said lawsuit.

CPJ’s Africa Program coordinator, Angela Quintal said Jones Abiri should never have been arrested and his over two years detention without trial is an outrageous injustice that should be ended without delay.

“Nigeria must hold accountable those responsible for Abiri’s detention, including the security service, and send a message that such flagrant abuses against journalists and press freedom will not be tolerated,” she said.

The DSS operates under Nigeria’s coordinator of national security, which reports directly to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, according to Nigeria’s 1986 National Security Agencies Act.

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