Nigeria tries Boko Haram suspects, reporters barred

A lawyer in the prosecution team told reporters "this is a very sensitive case and you need to be patient enough to get details much later."

Nigeria tries Boko Haram suspects, reporters barred

Nigeria commenced on Thursday what seemed like a secret trial of 17 people suspected of being members of the Boko Haram group in the country commercial capital Lagos.

Journalists were told to leave as soon as the suspects arrived to the courtroom, accompanied by armed agents of the Nigerian secret police, the SSS.

"The decision not to allow journalists to cover the proceedings is from the presidency," thundered one fierce-looking, bespectacled secret agent when reporters said they had a constitutional right to cover the court.

"You are given five minutes to leave this place or you risk being handcuffed," he added, defiantly.

The agents had earlier given a strong signal of what shape the trial would take when they forcefully seized a smartphone with which a lawyer had taken the picture of the suspects, arrested in Lagos in March.

A prosecutor from the Directorate of Public Prosecution, Mrs E.I. Alakija, turned down a request to speak to the media on the case.

A lawyer in the prosecution team told reporters "this is a very sensitive case and you need to be patient enough to get details much later."

A court official who asked not to be named later told reporters the proceedings could not continue because five of the accused do not have legal representation.

The law says suspects have the right to access quality legal representation.

Nigeria is currently prosecuting an unknown number of Boko Haram suspects in the capital Abuja, but no conviction has been recorded so far.

Those being tried include suspects in the bombing of the UN office in Abuja, the Catholic Church bombing in Madalla, in the central Niger State and the bombing of the Abuja office of a local news daily, THISDAY.

Judgment is expected in November in the case involving one Kabiru Sokoto, an alleged Boko Haram kingpin arrested in connection with the Mandala bombing.

Four persons believed to be Boko Haram members are also being tried in Lagos for allegedly attacking the Kirikiri prison in Lagos where the 17 above are remanded.

The June attack was foiled and the alleged attackers were arrested.

Boko Haram, hitherto a peaceful though theologically eccentric Islamic sect campaigning against bad governance and corruption, has – since the 2009 murder by police of group leader Mohamed Yusuf – transformed into a full-blown militant group.

The sect's violent activities have been met with opprobrium by millions of Nigerian Muslims.

In May, President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in the three northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, where the Boko Haram insurgency has proven most deadly.

AA

Last Mod: 25 Ekim 2013, 12:11
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