Jones Abiri, a Bayelsa-based journalist and publisher who was rearrested on Saturday by officers of the Department of State Services (DSS), has been charged with treasonable felony.
SaharaReporters gathered that the fresh charges are being instituted by the Federal Ministry of Justice at the High Court, instead of the Abuja Magistrate Court, where Jones Abiri’s was previously tried.
Abiri, publisher of the Weekly Source, a newspaper based in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, was arrested in 2016 over allegations of being the leader of the Joint Revolutionary Council of the Joint Niger Delta Liberation Force, a separatist group. He was also accused of threatening to bomb oil installations.
He was detained without standing trial in the custody of the DSS for two years, before he was finally arraigned in 2018 following pressure from local and international human rights organisations, including the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Amnesty International. Abiri maintained his innocence.
In July 2018, Femi Falana, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and human rights lawyer, had filed a fundamental human rights enforcement suit before the Federal High Court in Abuja on behalf of Abiri, asking the court to pay him N200million in damages, for violating his rights as guaranteed in Sections 34, 35 and 40 of the Constitution, as well as Articles 11 and 16 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act.
Abiri was eventually arraigned in July 2018 before a Magistrate’s Court in Abuja. After repeated hearings in court, he was granted bail and released in August 2018.
In September 2018, the Federal High Court in Abuja awarded the sum of N10.5million in damages against the DSS for illegally detaining Abiri.
However, he was rearrested by the DSS on Saturday, March 30, 2019.
One of his lawyers, who preferred not to be named, said the case before the embattled journalist is a different one.
Speaking on the details of the new case, the lawyer said: “It’s a separate one this time. Then he was charged at the magistrate court. Now, he is going to be charged at the High Court.
"The allegations against Abiri this time around are based on evidence of confession contained in a video he made. A lawyer, who watched the video, told me this and the lawyer works in the Federal Ministry of Justice.
“Yes, this time they are using his confessional statement, which is a video. Jones Abiri is going to be charged with terrorism. The charges have been drafted by the Federal Ministry of Justice under the pseudonym General Akoutebe. A video was recorded in which he made a confession and called several names, including that of Felix Tuodolo.”