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Growing Concern Over US Activist's Detention in Nigeria


Nigerian authorities say U.S. aid worker Judith Asuni, who was detained last month for alleged security breaches, will have to wait until next week to know the outcome of her bail application. For VOA, Gilbert da Costa in Abuja reports that pressure is beginning to mount over her continued detention.

At a court hearing, the State Security Service provided what was supposedly very sensitive evidence against Judith Asuni and her Nigerian co-worker Danjuna Saidu on so-called national security breaches.

Defense counsels requested time to study the documents. After hours of private discussions with prosecutors and defense attorneys, the court said the trial would resume October 16. The court is expected to rule on a bail application then.

The 60-year-old Asuni, who is married to a Nigerian, was arrested September 25 in the restive Niger Delta along with two Germans - Florian Opitz, 35, and Andy Lehmann, 26, and one Nigerian, Danjuma Saidu. The German nationals were granted bail Friday.

The U.S. embassy in Nigeria said Sunday it is deeply worried about by her continued detention without bail.

The statement described Asuni as a peace activist committed to conflict management, transparency and sustainable development in the troubled Niger Delta.

Asuni, who runs the non-governmental Academic Associates Peace Works, and Saidu are accused of facilitating the trip to Nigeria of the German filmmakers for the purpose of a video and still recording of oil pipelines, refineries, petroleum installations and ships, considered restricted targets by Nigeria.

All four pleaded not guilty to the charges when they appeared in court last week.

Asuni's daughter, Bolanle, says her mother is being targeted by powerful interests.

"If this is about the Germans and the DPP [Director of State Prosecution] says the Germans can be released and my mother, Dr. Judith Asuni is going back to the SSS [State Security Service], is it about the Germans? If it is not about the Germans what is it about? What is it she does that is frustrating whoever is orchestrating this process? Who benefits from disruptions? Who benefits from militia, who benefits from conflict? Who will be angered when peace and harmony is created?" she said.

Groups in the delta have voiced shock and concern over Asuni's continued detention and paid tribute to her work in the region.

New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists urged the Nigerian government to avoid what it termed a repressive pattern of intimidating press coverage of the Niger Delta crisis.

Legal experts say the four risk prison sentences of up to 14 years if convicted.

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