RevolutionNow Protest: Sowore, Bakare challenge secret trial request
Pro-democracy activist and convener of the RevolutionNow protest, Mr. Omoleye Sowore and his co-defebdant, Olawole Bakare, on Monday, opposed an application the Federal Government filed to conduct their trial in secret.
The duo, in a counter-affidavit they filed through their team of lawyers led by Chief Femi Falana, SAN, urged the Federal High Court in Abuja to dismiss the application which also sought to mask all the witnesses that are billed to testify against them.
In the 26- paragraphed counter-affidavit that was personally deposed to by Sowore, he told the court that identities of all the proposed witnesses are already in the public domain.
He contended that there was nothing in the amended two-count charge pending against them that could warrant the court to exempt members of the public from observing their trial.
FG had in a five paragraphed affidavit that was deposed to by one Noma Wando, a litigation officer in the Department of Public Prosecution, Federal Ministry of Justice, FG, told the court that the witnesses, “are afraid of giving evidence, unless they are protected, for fear of being murdered by the defendants, his cohorts or members of the ‘Revolution Now’ protest group across the country”.
It told the court that the prosecution witnesses, “who are Officers of the Department of State Service, who investigated this case, are reluctant to come and give evidence for fear of being attacked by the other members of the Revolution Now’ protest group across the country”.
FG said the witnesses assured that if they are protected by the court, “they are willing to come and testify, for Justice to be done in this case.
“That it is in the interest of Justice and public safety that the application is granted”, it added.
It therefore applied for, “An order of this honourable court excluding persons other than parties and their legal representatives with the exception of the accredited members of the Press at the hearing of the above named charge.
“An order of this honourable court directing that the courts should be vacated whenever the prosecution witnesses are coming to testify in the screen to be masked, and that only the trial Judge, parties and their legal representatives with the exception of the accredited members of the Press will see the witnesses when they are testifying.
As well as, “An order of the honourable court directing that the real names and addresses of prosecution witnesses in the proceedings shall not be disclosed”.
However, in his counter-affidavit, Sowore who identified himself as a journalist, a human rights activist, blogger, entrepreneur and the publisher of an online news media, Sahara Reporters, narrated how he was “harassed and arrested” on August 2, 2019, by operatives of the DSS, an incident he said was captured by the CCTV Camera in the building.
He said the DSS had in an apparent media trial, on August 21, 2019, alleged that he went to Dubai to receive millions of Dollars from foreign collaborators with which he intended to destabilize the government of “Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd).
“That when it was revealed that I had never been to Dubai or any of the Arab States in my life, the bogus allegations were dropped.
“That the Complainant/ Applicant had also misled this honourable court into believing that I engage in terrorist activities upon which an ex-parte order for my detention was sought and obtained on August 7, 2019.
“That when it became apparent to this honourable court that the allegations of my engaging in terrorist activities was a mere media propaganda, his Lordship Justice Taiwo Taiwo on the 24th of September , 2019, ordered for my immediate release.
“That the order of this honoursble court per his Lordship Justice Taiwo Taiwo mandating the DSS to release me forthwith was never complied with.
“That the Complainant/ Applicant in an apparent bid to frame me up at all cost wrote to the NFIU seeking for any information on any alleged wrong dealings that might be traced to me, but they were informed that I have no record of any unlawful transactions”.
He said he was nonetheless charged with 7-count for transferring monies from one of his bank account to another and for insulting Buhari.
“That on the 6th November, 2019, the Deputy Chief Registrar of this honourable court while working in concert with the Complainant/ Applicant herein, procured masking equipment and other secret trial gadgets preparatory to shielding state witnesses without the leave and consent of the trial judge.
“That on December 5, 2019, a team of DSS operatives led by Rasheed Olawole 9PSOI), and comprising officers such as Marshal Dele Adelle, Moses Amadi , Paul Clement, Cyril Odawn, Usman Baffa, amongst others, invaded the hallowed chambers of this honourable court in a Gestapo manner and effected my arrest, culminating in the presiding judge , honourable justice Ijeoma Ojukwu abruptly ending the proceedings for the date.
“That these officers, who invaded the courtroom on 5th December, 2019 did not mask their faces which were well captured on camera during the said invasion where I was brutally assaulted by them”.
He told the court that names, residential addresses, phone contacts and other details of the officers and other witnesses billed to testify in the case is public knowledge, “and there is no reported case of incident of any threat against any of the said persons”.
“That none of the listed witnesses have ever been threatened, harassed, or molested by either me or any of my supporters at any time whatsoever.
“That I know of a fact that the Complainant/ Applicant has the capacity to protect its witnesses. That there is nothing in the instant charge requiring secret trial or shielding of witnesses”.
He said identities and pictures of the proposed witnesses, who were the same DSS officials that invaded the court room to arrest him, is already in the public domain.
Trial Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu had on February 13, slated Wednesday to commence full-blown trial of the defendants who were accused of conspiring to stage a revolution campaign on August 5, 2019, tagged “#Revolution Now”, aimed at removing President Buhari from office as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria during his term of office, otherwise than by constitutional means.
FG alleged that the defendants had by their action, committed the offence of treasonable felony, contrary to section 41(a) of the Criminal Code Act Cap C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, and punishable under the same section of the Act.
Additional reports from agencies