[Fwd: [BRC-NEWS] The Late Ken Saro-Wiwa's Trial May Be Reopened]

Carrol Cox cbcox at SPAMilstu.edu
Sat Nov 20 18:44:46 MST 1999



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Subject: [BRC-NEWS] The Late Ken Saro-Wiwa's Trial May Be Reopened
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       Copyright 1999 InterPress Service, all rights reserved.
          Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.

                      *** 18-Nov-99 ***

RIGHTS-NIGERIA: The Late Ken Saro-Wiwa's Trial May Be Reopened

By Toye Olori

LAGOS, Nov 18 (IPS) - Rights groups in Nigeria have demanded the re-trial
of the late Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni activists hanged in
November 1995 for their alleged involvement in the murder of four
prominent Ogoni leaders.

Nnimmo Bassey, Director of the Environmental Right Action (ERA) and Paul
Ohonbamu, Co-ordinator Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) said in a joint
statement that: ''The former trial was patently unjust and everyone saw
that justice had no room in it. We call for a retrial''.

Bassey, marking the fourth anniversary of the murder of the Ogoni
activists in Benin City, capital of Nigeria's Midwestern state of Edo,
said they would leave no stones unturned in their quest to have the case
retried.

''If Saro-Wiwa and his compatriots are found to have been victims of a
Kangaroo set-up, if they were murdered to satisfy the blood thirstiness of
vampires in power, those vampires must be made to face charges in a free
and open court of law,'' he said.

He also demanded the release of the bodies of the nine activists for
proper burial.

Bassey said the people of the Niger Delta, for whom Saro-Wiwa sacrificed
his life, ''are still denied the right to life, the right to control their
resources, the right to self determination and the right to a safe and
satisfactory environment in which to develop their full potentials.''

Niger Delta, where 90 percent of Nigera's oil is produced, has witnessed a
series of bloody confrontation, between the local people and
multi-national oil companies, since Saro-Wiwa's murder.

To reduce the tension, Bassey called for the immediate withdrawal of
Nigerian troops, whom he refers to as the ''armies of occupation'' from
the Niger Delta, especially from the Ogoniland.

Ogoniland, an area of some 404 square miles in Rivers State in the Niger
Delta, has a population of about 500,000. Most of the land there is
polluted as a result of oil spills.

Michael Bimbaum, senior English criminal lawyer, who attended the court
proceedings in March 1995, said Saro-Wiwa's trial might not conform to
internationally-recognised standards of fair trial.

''The tribunal established to hear the case was neither independent nor
impartial. The Federal military government's decision that this case
should be heard by a special tribunal, rather than the ordinary courts,
undermines the normal rights of defence enshrined in Nigeria's own
constitution and in international human rights instruments to which
Nigeria is a party,'' said Bimbaum.

Saro-Wiwa's hanging led to Nigeria's expulsion from the Commonwealth in
1995. Nigeria, however, returned to the group -- an association of more
than 54 former British colonies -- last weekend when the Commonwealth held
its summit in South Africa.

The demand for a retrial of the Saro-Wiwa case has been welcomed by the
Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), a non-governmental
organisation (ngo) based in the commercial capital of Lagos. In 1995, the
CDHR condemned the trial and the killing of the Ogoni activists.

''Our position is that the trial at that time was illegal and
unconstitutional. A retrial would be a welcome development because an
injustice is an injustice,'' says Sina Loremikan of the CDHR.

''The United Nations has said the trial was unconstitutional and called
for the release of the corpses and compensation to the families of the
hanged men but up till today, the Nigerian government has not done this,''
Loremikan told IPS.

President Olusegun Obasanjo promised during his inauguration speech on May
29 to release the remains of Saro-Wiwa and his colleagues to the Ogoni
people.

Among activities to mark the execution of the nine Ogonis, the Movement
for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), which Saro- Wiwa led, held a
candlelight procession in Ogoniland in honour of their slain kinsmen.

(END/IPS/to/mn/99)

Origin: Harare/RIGHTS-NIGERIA/

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