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Nigerian Attorney Criticizes Detention of US-Based Blogger

  • Gilbert da Costa

The Nigerian lawyer for U.S.-based blogger, Jonathan Elendu, has called for the secret police to either charge him in court or free him immediately. Elendu has been held since October 18, when the Nigerian State Security Service arrested him at the Abuja airport upon arrival from the United States, where he lives. Gilbert da Costa reports for VOA from Abuja.

Lagos-based human-rights lawyer Festus Keyamo is leading the campaign for Jonathan Elendu's release from secret police custody. He says he will challenge Elendu's continued detention in court.

The blogger, who is being investigated for acts of sedition following his reports about corruption, politics and the Niger Delta, has not been allowed to see his lawyer, doctor or close relatives.

Under Nigerian law, suspects are to be charged within 24 hours. Keyamo says he was disappointed his client has yet to have his day in court, more than a week after his arrest.

"It is very, very condemnable," he said. "It is absolutely unacceptable. It is democratically wrong. It is legally unconstitutional for them to keep him this long without affording him the opportunity to present himself in court. I condemn it totally and entirely."

The arrest and deportation of two foreign journalists for reporting in the restive oil-rich Niger Delta and the closure of a television station and the arrest of other reporters have raised questions about freedom of speech and the press in Nigeria.

Keyamo says Elendu's detention was a deliberate act to intimidate the press in Nigeria and warned there could be difficult days ahead.

"I suspect that this regime may be very hard on the press. And the earlier we begin to confront the regime regarding its position on the press, the better for us," he said.

Nigerian security officials say Elendu's detention followed legal procedures, and that his publications were a threat to national security.