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Again DSS fails to present witnesses against Abiri – Court threatens to strike out case

FOR the second time, the Department of State Service (DSS) has failed to present any witness against Jones Abiri who was detained for over years without trial.

The Wuse Zone 2 Magistrate Court adjourned the matter to Friday and threatened to strike out the case if the DSS fails to produce witnesses and serve proof of evidence to the defence counsel.

Abiri was released on Wednesday after he met his bail conditions.

At the resumed hearing on the matter on Thursday, representative of counsel to the DSS, M.D. Tanko, appealed to the court to adjourn the trial again because he had not been briefed on the case.

Tanko said the main counsel to DSS, Jamilu Hamisu, had called him this morning to represent him in the court, adding that he did not get any briefing on the case.

The magistrate, Chukwuemeka Nweke, warned that his court would not be used for unnecessary delay in the trial.

He adjourned the trial to next day and threatened to strike out the case if the DSS fails to serve proof of evidence to the defence counsel and produce witnesses.

The hearing on the matter was initially scheduled on August 2 but the counsel to the DSS appealed for adjournment because according to him, the witnesses travelled abroad. He, however, decided to stay from the court today and sent another lawyer who said he had not been briefed on the case and therefore appealed for another adjournment.

Abiri was first arraigned in the court on July 27 after he had spent more than two years in DSS detention. He was granted stringent bail conditions that day which the court later lessened.

Counsel to Abiri, Samuel Ogala from Falana and Falana Chambers, told The ICIR that Abiri was charged with criminal intimidation of sending text messages to some oil companies and demanding certain amount of money.

“We’re expecting that the trial will go on tomorrow,” Ogala said. “They are supposed to serve us with the proof of evidence before the end of today so that that trial will commence tomorrow. But if they don’t, we’ll have our application to make before the court.”

DSS had claimed that Abiri was a militant and kept him in detention for more than two years without trial until local and international outrage on his captivity forced the DSS to charge him to court.

Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information, had tried to justify Abiri’s illegal detention by claiming he is not a journalist.

Abiri, who is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Weekly Source Newspaper in Bayelsa State, was arrested by DSS on July 21, 2016 over accusation of militancy in the Niger Delta.

Abiri told The ICIR that he was denied visit by either his family members or lawyers and he was not even allowed to speak with his family on phone throughout his detention.

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