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Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Nigerian Journalists Freed, but Equipment Still Held
to Protect Journalists today called on Nigeria's State Security Service (SSS)
to return laptops and cell phones confiscated from two journalists who were illegally
for more than a week without charge.
Editor Musa Muhammad Awwal and reporter
Aliyu Saleh of Hausa-language weekly newspaper Al-Mizan
were released from the custody of the SSS in the capital, Abuja, early Tuesday
morning, defense lawyer Sadiq Marafa told CPJ. "They are in good health. They
were treated very well," Marafa said, but added that the SSS warned the
journalists that they could be summoned again as investigations continue.
"Throughout our detention we were not told our offense, but they still
have our mobile phones and laptops, which they said would be returned to us as
soon as they are done with their investigation," Awwal told Agence
the journalists and searched their homes and office in the northern state of Kaduna
without warrants on December 24, Marafa told CPJ. Their wives were also
detained briefly, he said. The journalists were held incommunicado
and were not taken to court despite a legal limit of 48 hours of detention
without a court appearance, he said. Their release came after Marafa threatened
to sue the government over illegal arrest and detention if the journalists were
not let go within 24 hours, according to news reports.
Local journalists have said they believe
Awwal and Saleh were arrested over a front-page story alleging extrajudicial
detentions of 84 civilians suspected of affiliation with the Islamist militant
sect Boko Haram, which has been fighting Nigeria's federal government in a bid
to impose Shariah law in the country's northern, predominantly Muslim states.
"After alleging that the government was
engaging in widespread extrajudicial imprisonment, Musa Muhammad Awwal and
Aliyu Saleh were themselves subjected to unlawful detention at the hands of
state security forces," said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita.
"While we welcome the release of the journalists, we call on Nigerian
authorities to immediately return all confiscated equipment and to ensure that
all journalists are able to report on matters of public security without
Security agents also raided the home of
and launched a hunt for Al-Mizan Editor-in-Chief
Ibrahim Musa, who went into hiding, according to news reports.
Nigeria's National Human Rights Commission,
the Nigerian Union of Journalists, and prominent public figures condemned the journalists'
detention, according to news
reports. The Commission also urged
the government to probe the allegations of extrajudicial detentions.
Al-Mizan is run by the
Shiite organization Islamic Movement of Nigeria, according to news reports.
CPJ is a New York-based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide.
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