A Human and Environmental Rights Activist, Alagoa Morris, has called on the Department of State Security, DSS, to either charge detained Bayelsa based journalist, Jones Abiri before a court of law or release him.
Alagoa, Head of Bayelsa Field Operations at Environmental Right Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, made the call in Yenagoa on Monday, stating that only a court of competent jurisdiction could convict a suspect and dispense punishment.
The detained Abiri is the publisher of the ‘Weekly Source’ a local tabloid in Bayelsa state, and was arrested on June 21 by DSS operatives in his office in Bayelsa and subsequently detained in Abuja.
Morris said that Abiri having known the accused for over 20 years as a reputable journalist and publisher of a community newspaper, “he had never struck me; not even in my wildest imaginations, as a criminal or militant or belonging to any terrorist organization.”
“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.
According to Morris, the allegations leveled against Abiri are shocking and heavy and require to be proved in court, especially as the DSS says the suspect had admitted some of them.
“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.
“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.
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.