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Nigerian Militants Threaten More Violence as Court Rejects Bail for Detained Leader

The Nigerian Supreme Court has rejected a request for bail for a jailed Niger Delta militant leader currently facing treason charges. For VOA, Gilbert da Costa in Abuja reports that his supporters have vowed to intensify their violent campaign in the oil-rich region.

A five-man panel of Nigeria's highest court, said it was convinced that militant leader Mujahid Dokubo-Asari is a threat to national security and cannot be granted bail.

The Supreme Court supported earlier decisions by two lower courts to deny Asari bail over security fears.

Festus Keyamo, attorney for the detained militant leader, challenged the verdict and accused the Supreme Court of acting well beyond its reach.

"We totally disagree with the reasoning that led to that judgment," he said. "The Supreme Court went beyond the frontiers of the appeal. What was before the Supreme Court did not include those issues that they included in their judgment. The Supreme Court was scavenging for reasons to support the decision of the Court of Appeal and in an appeal, you don't scavenge for reasons, you restrict yourself to the reasons given by the Court of Appeal."

Several armed groups responsible for attacks on oil facilities and workers have demanded the release of Asari, who has been detained since September 2005.

A supporter of the detained militant leader, who gave his name as Prince Charles, told VOA the continued detention of Asari can only lead to increased tensions in the region.

"In fact this will aggravate it the more," he said. "I believe we are coming on Wednesday for the high court again, after Wednesday, if they don't release him, I am betting you, I'm betting you, you will live to hear that atrocities are happening in the Niger Delta. The present president, so-called Yar'Adua, will have it hot in this state. We will not relent; we will fight with our last drop of blood."

The new governors of Nigeria's three main oil-producing states, Rivers, Bayelsa and Delta, have also called for the release of Asari.

More than 1,000 foreigners have been taken hostage in the region since January. Most of them were freed after their employers paid ransom.

Asari is due in court next Wednesday for the continuation of his trial.