Ken Saro Wiwa gets death penalty

Chris Burford cburford at gn.apc.org
Fri Nov 10 11:21:57 MST 1995


For the record I am forwarding this statement from Amnesty International
which is perhaps the most concise authoritative statement of the human
rights case for supporting Ken Saro-Wiwa. I regret not having posted it
earlier.

Chris Burford, London.


___________________________________________________________________________

/* Written  8:59 pm  Oct 31, 1995 by chrisusher at gn.apc.org in gn:africa.news */
/* ---------- "Ken Saro Wiwa gets death penalty" ---------- */

+------------------------------------------------------+
+     AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL URGENT ACTION BULLETIN     +
+     Electronic distribution authorised               +
+     This bulletin expires: 12 December 1995.         +
+------------------------------------------------------+

EXTERNAL                                 AI Index: AFR 44/25/95
                                         31 October 1995

Further information on UA 200/94 (AFR 44/03/94, 24 May 1994) and
follow-up (AFR 44/07/94, 27 June 1994) - Prisoners of conscience
/ Legal concern / Health concern and new concerns: Unfair trial
/ Death penalty

NIGERIA           Ken Saro-Wiwa, writer and environmentalist,
                        President of the Movement for the
                        Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP)
                 Dr Barinem Kiobel, former Rivers State
                        Commissioner (minister)

and new names:    Saturday Dobee
                  Paul Levura
                  Nordu Eawo
                  Felix Nuate
                  Daniel Gbokoo
                  John Kpuinen, student
                  Baribor Bera, farmer

On 30 and 31 October 1995, after what Amnesty International
believes to have been politically-motivated and unfair trials,
the nine people named above were convicted of murder and
sentenced to death by hanging.  Amnesty International considers
at least two of them - Ken Saro-Wiwa and Dr Barinem Kiobel - to
be prisoners of conscience, imprisoned for the non-violent
expression of their political views.

The nine were convicted in connection with the murder of four
Ogoni leaders by an angry crowd in May 1994, for which the
leadership of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People
(MOSOP) was pronounced responsible by the authorities the day
after the murders.  MOSOP, a non-governmental organization in
Rivers State, southeast Nigeria, has been targeted by the
government in recent years for its non-violent campaign against
environmental damage by oil companies and for more autonomy for
the Ogoni ethnic group.

The defendants were detained incommunicado and without charge for
at least eight months before being charged; several were alleged
to have been tortured or ill-treated in military custody.  They
were convicted in two trials conducted simultaneously by a Civil
Disturbances Special Tribunal in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
This court, which falls outside the normal judicial system, was
appointed by the military government especially to try these
cases.

The trials contravened Nigerian and international standards for
fair trial to which the Nigerian government is committed, in
particular the right to fair trial by an independent court and
the right of appeal to a higher and independent jurisdiction.
The Tribunal has shown itself to be neither independent of
government control nor impartial.  The Federal Military
Government has controlled every aspect of the case: the arrests,
investigations, prosecution, appointment of the tribunal and the
progress of the trial itself. Two key prosecution witnesses
alleged that they were threatened and bribed to give false
evidence.  The defence lawyers withdrew from the trials in June
and July 1995 in protest at continued bias by the Tribunal in
favour of the prosecution.

Ledum Mitee and four other defendants in the two trials were
acquitted.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Following the death in detention in August 1995 of detainee
Clement Tusima, apparently after months of serious illness and
medical neglect (see UA 219/95, AFR 44/19/95, 15 September), at
least 17 other Ogoni detainees arrested in mid-1994 remain
imprisoned without trial.  They were detained incommunicado and
without charge until June 1995 when they were transferred from
police detention to prison custody on a "holding charge", but it
is not clear whether they too are to be tried by the Civil
Disturbances Special Tribunal in connection with the same
murders.

For further information, please refer to Nigeria: the Ogoni
trials and detentions, 15 September 1995 (AFR 44/20/95).

+-----------------------------------------------------------+
+ Supporters of Amnesty International around the world are  +
+ writing urgent appeals in response to the concerns        +
+ described above. If you would like to join with them in   +
+ this action or have any queries about the Urgent Action   +
+ network or Amnesty International in general, please       +
+ contact one of the following:                             +
+                                                           +
+      Ray Mitchell, rmitchellai at gn.apc.org (UK)            +
+      Scott Harrison, sharrison at igc.apc.org (USA)          +
+      Guido Gabriel, ggabriel at amnesty.cl.sub.de (Germany)  +
+      Marilyn McKim, aito at web.apc.org (Canada)             +
+      Michel Ehrlich, mehrlich at aibf.be (Belgium)           +
+-----------------------------------------------------------+



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