You Can’t Tral IPOB Leader in Secret, Court Tells FG

Justice James Tsoho of a Federal High Court in Abuja has refused an application of secret trail of the detained leader of Indigenous People of Brafra leader, Nmandi Kanu.
In his ruling Friday afternoon, the Judge held that the Federal Government application is not appropriate in the circumstances of the case since it is not a terrorism case.
He however directed that “names and addresses of the witnesses would not be made public.”
The Judge sustained an earlier order he made on February 9 permitting family members of the defendants and interested members of the public to attend the trial subject to the capacity of the court.
The detained Kanu, who is facing a six-count treason charge, had opposed the application by the Federal Government to conduct his trial in secret.
Federal Government had in the application it filed before the Federal High Court, decried that all the witnesses billed to testify against Kanu and two other pro-Biafra agitators, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi, who are facing trial with him, have declined to appear in court.
It said the witnesses insisted that they would not testify against the defendants unless their safety was guaranteed. Consequently, government lawyer, David Kaswe,‎ prayed trial Justice John Tsoho to issue an order protecting the identities of the witnesses by ‎allowing them to either wear facial mask or to testify behind screens.
The Federal Government equally applied for an order excluding persons except journalists from witnessing the proceedings.
“The measure is to safeguard the lives of prosecution witnesses who live in the geographical region where the defendants come from. Since their arrest, there has been violent protests for the defendants to be released.
The witnesses have already indicated fear to give evidence in view of perceived backlash. My lord, they have categorically informed us that unless they could be guaranteed some form of protection by the court, they would not come to testify.
“In the light is t‎his, the case of the prosecution will be greatly affected should there be any reason for the witnesses not to come to court”, Kaswe submitted.
But Kanu, through his lead counsel, Chief Chuks Muoma (SAN), vehemently opposed the application which he said grossly lacked merit. He argued that section 36(4) of the 1999 constitution made no provision for masquerades to testify in a trial ‎involving an alleged act of treason. “An accused person under our jurisprudence and justice ad‎ministration must be confronted with his accusers eye-ball to eye-ball. “My lord we operate an accusatorial‎ system of procedure under the common law. Justice must not only be done but must be seen to have been done.
“It is not within common sense to malign and accuse someone in public and apply to try him in the bedroom. Having been accused in public we want to also be tried in public. “We therefore urge this court not to allow masquerades to testify before it. We want to see their faces and ask them questions. As masquerades, how will the court be able to gauge their demeanour and body language? Is it by the rhythm of their dance steps?
“The tenets of justice outweigh this application and we urge my lord to reject it. It has no merit whatsoever. Secret trial is for terrorism charge, it is not for the type of offence for which these defendants were charged.
“Secret trial does not apply in a case of treasonable felony or involvement in alleged ‎unlawful society. During the trial we will prove to them that we are not an illegal organisation”, Muoma had added.

Author: News Editor

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