Amnesty International calls on Buhari, Ayade to free Agba Jalingo

NEWS DIGEST – Amnesty International Nigeria has called on the President Muhammadu Buhari and the Cross River State Governor, Ben Ayade, to end what it described as the “sham trial” of journalist Agba Jalingo and release him immediately and unconditionally.

The Media Manager of the organisation, Isa Sanusi, made the call in Calabar on Thursday during an interaction with journalists on the plight of Agba Jalingo, who is facing trial in a Federal High court for alleged terrorism and cybercrime, following his arrest in August last year.

Sanusi, who said Cross River State was becoming a repressive and hostile to journalists, added, “While Agba Jalingo is detained for his critical opinions, both Cross River and Federal Government are collaborating, through the manipulation of the criminal justice system to keep him behind bars.

“Twice Agba Jalingo was denied bail. We are concerned that Agba Jalingo’s trial falls short of international standards of fairness, especially because the court has allowed witnesses to be masked and the trial to be held in secret.”

He said the continued detention of Jalingo, the publisher of Crossriverwatch, an online newspaper, “is a stain on the image of Nigeria. His case shows just how far authorities can go to silence critics.

“Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State and the government of the President (Major General) Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) must stop filing bogus and politically motivated charges against critics and start listening to what they have to say.

“The case of Agba Jalingo is just one of the many cases of blatant violations of the right to freedom of expression and media freedom in Cross River State and several parts of Nigeria. Joseph Odok was also unlawfully detained and later charged with terrorism solely for expressing a critical opinion on social media.”

He also said the pattern of repression in Cross River State flagrantly violates the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended) and international and regional human rights treaties.

“The Cross River State authorities must stop the repression. The authorities must respect, protect, promote and ensure the right to freedom of expression and media freedom.

“While Agba Jalingo remains in Calabar prison, we are again appealing for his immediate and unconditional release. The sham trial must end. The flawed charges must be dropped.

“Amnesty International will continue to push for Agba Jalingo’s immediate and unconditional release and work with other NGOs to hold the Cross River State authorities to account for the increasing assault on human rights,” he said.

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