The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has urged Nigerian authorities to release jailed journalist Jones Abiri and drop cybercrime, anti-sabotage, and terrorism charges against him.
Abiri, editor-in-chief and publisher of the Weekly Source newspaper, is scheduled to appear at the federal high court in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, on Friday.
The federal case against Abiri is similar to allegations made by Nigeria’s Department of State Security in 2016, after which he was held without charge or access to family or a lawyer from July of that year until he was released in August 2018.
The prosecution in the ongoing case has requested that as many as six individuals – expected to testify against Abiri – be granted anonymity.
However, a defence lawyer argues that such anonymity would make it impossible “to know if they are actually witnesses or people who have just been brought to lie against him”.
Angela Quintal, CPJ Africa Program Coordinator said: “It is outrageous that the Nigerian government is now seeking to keep secret their alleged witnesses against Jones Abiri.
“Nigerian authorities should drop the charges against Jones Abiri and leave him to lead his life and work in peace.”
The journalist was arrested on May 22. He has been detained in Kuje prison in Abuja since his arrest, and was eligible for bail on June 24, but was unable to meet its conditions, which required that a landowner who had payed taxes since 2016 to stake a 100 million Naira ($277,777) bond.
The presiding judge was also expected to make a ruling on the witness protection request on Friday.
– African News Agency (ANA)