From Steve Oko, Umuahia
Eight of the nine Judaism adherents arrested while praying at the Afaraukwu Umuahia country home of the leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, have been granted bail by an Umuahia High Court.
The worshippers, who were arrested by the police on Sunday, May 13, 2018, had been remanded in the Afara Federal Prison after their arraignment before the Magistrate Court on May 14, 2018 where they were charged for terrorism.
Chief Magistrate O. U Ugwu had ordered that the accused be remanded in prison custody pending their arraignment in the High Court as the magistrate court lacked jurisdiction over their matter.
He had, however, chided the police for arraigning the accused before a magistrate court when they knew that it had no jurisdiction on the matter.
Ugwu described police action as a deliberate ploy to keep them in perpetual detention.
Six of the accused were arraigned at the High Court 1 headed by the state Acting Chief Judge, Justice Onuoha Ogwe, who granted them bail in the sum of N1 million each.
The other three were arraigned in High Court 3 led by Justice O. A. Chijioke, who granted two of them bail in the sum of N200,000 each.
He said that their surety must have verifiable residence and should also deposit two copies of their recent photographs with the court.
One of the accused was however not granted bail as his file was alleged to have “gone missing”, but his lawyer, Alloy Ejimakor, promised to fight harder to secure his bail.
Addressing newsmen later, Ejimakor expressed joy that after nearly a month of incarceration, the worshippers were able to get justice.
He thanked the courts for their wisdom in granting them bail although he expressed concern that the bail conditions by Court 1 were stringent.
Ejimakor vowed to initiate “fait inquiry” to know why the file of one of the accused suddenly went missing.
He insisted that the accused were not terrorists contrary to the claims by the police, hence the decision of the court to grant them bail “because the prosecution was not able to demonstrate proof of evidence”.
The defence counsel also faulted the charge preferred against the accused, arguing that it was defective and vague”, and vowed to challenge the Abia State Anti- Terrorism Law in court.
Ejimakor described the trial as religious persecution against the accused ” simply because they are of Judaism that is not among the two dominant religions in Nigeria.
He wondered how ordinary civilians in flowing white gown and praising Yahweh could be said to be engaging in threatening behaviour capable of frightening the police.