The Federal Government has been cautioned to stop its “media trial” of the detained publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore.
A rights activist and counsel to Mr Sowore, Femi Falana, gave the warning in a statement on Monday.
Mr Falana said it was ‘embarrassing’ that the federal government could hardly prove its case in the court against his client and yet resorted to trying Mr Sowore in the media.
It was reported how the presidency justified the treatment of Mr Sowore by SSS agents in a statement signed by President Muhammadu Buhari’s spokesperson, Garba Shehu.
Mr Shehu who was evasive on whether or not President Muhammadu Buhari authorised the disobedience of court orders by the SSS in detaining Mr Sowore and Friday’s invasion of the court said : “Sowore called for a revolution to overthrow the democratically elected government of Nigeria.”
Mr Falana said his clients, Messers Sowore and Bakare, are not in the caucus of “the well-known merchants of violence and coup plotters that had successfully but illegally removed democratically elected governments in Nigeria.”
While he maintained he would not join the president’s media aide in the battle of words over ‘highly contemptuous statements,’ he expressed surprise at the presidency’s attempt to dent his client’s image in the media.
He said, “it is highly unprofessional to subject a man who is held incommunicado to scurrilous attacks in the media.”
Rather than likening Mr Sowore to a terrorist, Mr Falana said the federal government should redivert its energy on the prosecution in commencing the trial.
“If the Presidency is so sure that our clients committed treasonable felony or any other offence whatsoever it should keep its powder dry and advise the Prosecution to commence the trial without any further delay,” he urged.
When Mr Sowore was arrested by the SSS earlier in August, he was accused of engaging in terrorist activities.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court ordered the SSS to investigate the allegation while detaining Mr Sowore for 45 days , Mr Falana said.
“But at the end of the investigation, he was not linked with terrorism in any material particular. Hence, he was not charged with any offence under the Terrorism Prevention Act, 2011 as amended,” he added.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the Nigerian government filed a seven-count charge against Mr Sowore alongside Mr Bakare for treasonable felony after calling for protests to demand good governance; cyberstalking for allegedly insulting President Muhammadu Buhari in a television interview and money laundering.
Messers Sowore and Bakare were detained by the SSS for over 120 days despite two separate court orders for their release by Justices Taiwo Taiwo and Ijeoma Ojukwu.
They were only released last Thursday night after Mrs Ojukwu gave the SSS 24 hours to release both men.
But only Mr Sowore was rearrested on Friday by the SSS.