#RevolutionNow protest leader awaits release on bail following charges of treason and “cyberstalking” –– fifty civil society organisations renew call for UN and AU to intervene
Mr Sowore, a prominent journalist, human rights activist and pro-democracy campaigner who was jailed on 3 August 2019 for having called for a peaceful #RevolutionNow protest, is still being detained in Nigeria in violation of a court order to release him on bail. Fifty human rights and press freedom organisations, who previously filed an Urgent Appeal concerning Mr Sowore’s case to the United Nations and African Union, have renewed their call for intervention to secure Mr Sowore’s immediate release.
Following prolonged detention under the 2013 Terrorism Act, Mr Sowore has been charged with treason for having called for a peaceful protest and “cyberstalking” for having allegedly insulted the President of Nigeria in a media interview. A third charge concerns money laundering for transferring funds for operating expenses of Sahara Reporters, Mr Sowore’s US-based online news agency that focuses on corruption and human rights abuses in Nigeria, from the outlet’s US account to its Nigerian account. All charges are considered to be a response to Mr Sowore’s critical stance towards the government rather than any actual criminal wrongdoing.
Nwachukwu Egbunike of Global Voices commented on the charges: "Omoloye Sowore's continued detention and the charges of treason affirm our position that this trial is merely a criminalisation of political dissent. We call on the Nigerian government to honour its own laws and the international treaties it is a signatory to. Sowore should be unconditionally released."
Fifty human rights and press freedom organisations, including Amnesty International, Index on Censorship, SERAP and Article 19 West Africa, have renewed their call to the UN and AU Special Mechanisms to intervene in the case of Mr Sowore and secure his immediate release. They had previously filed an Urgent Appeal on 23 August 2019, arguing that Mr Sowore’s treatment constituted a violation of his right not to be arbitrarily detained, right to a fair trial, right to freedom of expression, right of freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, and his rights as a human rights defender.
Today, the organisations renewed their call upon the UN and AU Special Mechanisms to:
- intervene urgently to secure the immediate release of Mr Sowore; and
- declare his arrest, prosecution and continuing detention a gross violation of his human rights.
"Sowore’s case and several similar cases instigated by state governors make a hideous mockery of Nigeria’s criminal justice systems, rule of law, freedom of expression and media freedom” said Olúwádàre A. Kóláwolé of the Socio Economic Rights & Accountability Project (SERAP). “Invoking charges of treasonable felony to unjustifiably or arbitrarily restrict the right to freedom of opinion and expression undermine the essence of the criminal justice system and the rule of law.”
Mr Sowore’s legal team in Nigeria, led by Mr Femi Falana, is continuing all efforts to get Mr Sowore’s bail release secured.