Amal Clooney, wife of celebrated Hollywood actor George Clooney calls for release of detained Nigerian activist Omoyele Sowore

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Barrister Amal Clooney, the wife of celebrated Hollywood actor George Clooney, has called for the release of detained Nigerian activist Omoyele Sowore.

George Clooney is the recipient of three Golden Globe Awards and two Academy Awards, one for acting in Syriana (2006) and the other for co-producing Argo (2012). In 2018, he was the recipient of the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award.

sowore
Omoyele Sowore

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In a statement, Amal Clooney, a very respected lawyer whose clients have included Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, and co-President of the Clooney Foundation for Justice, described Sowore’s continued detention as “outrageous” and vowed to continue monitoring his trial.

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“It is outrageous that Nigeria continues to imprison a journalist and Presidential candidate after a court has ordered his release. TrialWatch will continue to monitor Mr. Sowore’s trial and calls on the authorities to implement the court’s order as soon as possible,” she said.

On Wednesday, Amnesty International declared human rights defenders Omoyele Sowore, Olawale Bakare and Agba Jalingo prisoners of conscience.

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“We consider Sowore, Jalingo and Bakare to be prisoners of conscience detained solely for exercising their human rights. The Nigerian authorities must drop all charges against them and release them immediately and unconditionally,” said Seun Bakare, Programs Manager, Amnesty International Nigeria.
 
“Sowore, Jalingo and Bakare’s continued detention is a matter of shame for Nigeria. Their cases show just how far the authorities in Nigeria can go to silence their critics. The government of President Muhammadu Buhari needs to stop filing bogus and politically motivated charges against critics, and start listening to what they have to say.”
 
Amnesty said Nigerian authorities must stop using the security agents and judiciary as a tool for persecuting people who voice dissenting opinions, challenge abuse and call for accountability.
 
Omoyele Sowore and Olawale Bakare were arrested last August by officials of the Nigerian intelligence service after they called for a nationwide protest denouncing the socio-economic conditions in the country.

They face several charges including treason, money laundering, and cyber-stalking. If convicted, they could face up to life imprisonment or the death penalty.

After meeting harsh bail conditions on 9 November, a warrant for their release was issued by a Federal High Court judge in Abuja, yet the Nigerian authorities refused to release them.
 
Agba Jalingo was abducted from his home in Lagos and driven more than 766 km by road to Calabar, in Cross River state after writing a series of articles critical of the Cross River State Government, his home state. He faces charges of treason and terrorism and if convicted, he could face up to life in prison or the death penalty.
 
Amnesty said Nigerian authorities at both federal and state levels have repeatedly targeted human rights defenders, activists and journalists including by stifling dissenting voices and passing repressive legislation to restrict the civic space.

“The flawed charges and sham trials of Sowore, Jalingo and Bakare expose the inadequacies and bizarre manipulation of the Nigerian criminal justice system and an unacceptable contempt for the rule of law and human rights,” said Seun Bakare.

Read full statement below from The Clooney Foundation for Justice.

November 22, 2019 – The Clooney Foundation for Justice’s TrialWatch initiative has been monitoring the trial of Omoyele Sowore in Nigeria.

While Mr. Sowore’s trial is still ongoing, the Clooney Foundation for Justice is concerned by Mr. Sowore’s continued detention.

On October 21, 2019, the Federal High Court of Abuja reduced the conditions under which Mr. Sowore could be granted bail eliminating a cash bail requirement and requiring that Mr. Sowore not speak publicly about political issues and remain within a particular region of Nigeria.

According to defense counsel, Mr. Sowore met those conditions on November 5. The court then issued an order dated November 6 that explicitly stated that Mr. Sowore “has been Released.”

But Nigeria’s Department of State Services (DSS) has not released Mr. Sowore and he remains in custody more than 15 days after this judicial decision.

Amal Clooney, co-President of the Clooney Foundation for Justice, said “It is outrageous that Nigeria continues to imprison a journalist and Presidential candidate after a court has ordered his release. TrialWatch will continue to monitor Mr. Sowore’s trial and calls on the authorities to implement the court’s order as soon as possible.”

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Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba covers the White House, the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Simon can be reached on simonateba@todaynewsafrica.com

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