Court orders Nigerian activist released

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A court in Abuja ordered the State Security Service to release activist and former presidential candidate Omoyele Sowore while charges of treason against him are pending.

Security agents arrested Sowore in August after he called for a revolution. He said it was needed because the February election, in which President Muhammadu Buhari won a second term, was not credible.

Buhari, a former military ruler, faces criticism for his administration’s record on human rights particularly a crackdown on members of a now-banned Shi’ite group a United Nations special rapporteur said involved excessive use of lethal force.

In his call for revolution, Sowore – who ran in February’s election and is the founder of news site Sahara Reporters – listed other issues ranging from alleged corruption to ineptitude.

Government last week outlined charges against him including treason, money laundering and “cyberstalking” for allegedly sharing false information about Buhari that insulted him and incited hated against him.

Sowore has yet to be arraigned and the judge rejected a request by the State Security Service to extend detention while charges are pending.

“The liberty of all Nigerians, high or low, poor or rich, is guaranteed by the constitution. It’s for this end I’m of the view the defendant ought to be released forthwith,” Justice Taiwo Taiwo said.

In charges filed last week, government accused Sowore of money laundering related to four transfers to a Sahara Reporters account in New York it alleged were done to hide the “illicit origin” of the cash.

It was unclear when Sowore would be released and once he is arraigned, he could be taken into custody again. The court ordered him to surrender all travel documents within 48 hours and said his lawyer should be prepared to bring him to the court at any time.