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Detained Nigerian Journalists Out on Bail

Two Nigerian journalists arrested for a story on a presidential aircraft have been released on bail by a court in Abuja Thursday.

The federal high court in Abuja has ordered the release of the two journalists on a $4,000 bail each. The trial was subsequently adjourned and will resume next month.

Lead defense counsel, Femi Falana, had argued that the sedition charge brought against them was illegal and unconstitutional, and asked the court to release the men on bail.

"For any government, particularly a democratically elected government, to use such a dead law to harass journalists, for me, it's a sad development," said Falana. "We are going to move very speedily to challenge the constitutionality of the charge and ask the judge to throw out the case."

The two reporters were charged with sedition on Tuesday over stories critical of a new presidential jet.

Gbenga Aruleba, of African Independent Television, and Rotimi Durojaiye of the Independent newspaper, face two years in jail if convicted.

The two men had been in the custody of the State Security service, the secret police force, since their arrest on Monday.

Ndagane Aku, president of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, the umbrella body for journalists in Nigeria, told VOA the union was concerned over the harassment of journalists by security agencies.

"What we object to is not our people being tried but the way they are hounded and treated like common criminals," said Aku. "So we are surprised by what is happening. This cannot intimidate us in any form."

Some of Nigeria's leading human rights lawyers were in crowded court as part of a large defense team. Several opposition leaders were also in court as a mark of solidarity with the journalists.