Nigeria orders witness secrecy in trial of separatist

2016-12-14 17:07
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Abuja - A Nigerian court on Tuesday ordered that the identities of witnesses in the high-profile treason trial of a separatist leader be kept secret over fears they could be targeted.

Nnamdi Kanu heads the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) group which spearheads the Igbo people of southeast Nigeria's claim for a separate "Biafra state". He is in the dock alongside three other men and they face various allegations including terrorism charges.

Despite having been granted bail, Kanu has been in state custody since his arrest in October 2015.

Federal High Court Justice Binta Nyako ruled that the names of security operatives serving as prosecution witnesses should be "classified".

Speaking in the capital Abuja, the judge said the court would separate protected witnesses from the main court using screens as well as providing special entrances for their use.

The prosecution argued that they would be at risk if their identities became known.

"I won't take that. I want my trial in the public," Kanu shouted from the dock.

There were cries of "no to secret trial" from the public gallery following the judge's secrecy order.

Kanu's lawyer Ifeanyi Ejiofor said they would appeal the ruling.

"He was accused in the open. The trial must be conducted in the open," he said.

The trial was adjourned to January 10.

Prosecutors allege that Kanu, who also ran the London-based Radio Biafra, was head of an armed insurgent group.

In December last year, President Muhammadu Buhari alleged that Kanu committed "atrocities" against Nigeria.

A previous unilateral declaration of an independent Republic of Biafra in 1967 led to a brutal civil war that left hundreds of thousands dead in nearly three years of fighting.

Read more on:    muhammadu buhari  |  nigeria  |  west africa

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