DSS abduction of Sowore in Court barbaric, contempt of court ― Falana
• Says Bakare, no where to be found
The trial of the publisher of Sahara Reporter, Omoleye Sowore and his co-defendant, Adebayo Bakare assumed a different dimension on Friday as operatives of the Department of State Service (DSS) invaded the courtroom to rearrest Sowore, less than 24 hours of releasing him from unlawful detention on the order of Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu.
The commotion which paralysed the proceedings of the court started when armed DSS operatives cocked their guns to rearrest Sowore just after the judge had adjourned his trial till February 11, next year.
As Sowore and Bakare were leaving the courtroom and the judge was already attending to another case, armed DSS operatives who appeared to have laid an ambush for them, made to arrest them.
The move forced Sowore and Bakare to turn back to return to the courtroom, but Sowore was quickly held by an operative.
Sowore, who managed to free himself ran back into the court with the invading operatives cocking their guns as they went after him, a development that disrupted the ongoing proceedings at court.
Earlier, when the case was called, the prosecution counsel, Hassan Liman, had told the court, that the Thursday court order to release Sowore was complied with.
This was confirmed by Femi Falana, counsel to Sowore, who told the court that Sowore was released around 7.15 pm on Thursday.
On the agreement of counsel, the court adjourned till February 11, 12, 13, 2020 for the commencement of trial.
Meanwhile, Olawale Bakare, co-defendant to Sowore has been allegedly declared missing. While Sowore was driven back to the DSS in Falana’s car, where he is being currently detained, operatives of the agency are currently searching for Bakare in different parts of Abuja.
The uncertainty surrounding Bakare’s whereabouts at the moment has indeed added a new twist to the matter.
Meanwhile, Sowore’s counsel has described the action of the DSS as a “horrendous, bizarre, and barbaric contempt of court” never witnessed under “even the most brutal of past dictators that had ever ruled Nigeria”.
He said, “Under the military regime, the so-called enemies of the government would not be arrested in the web of the court which is considered a sanctuary.
“The military regimes would always show some respect for the court and would only arrest after the person left the court premises.
“What we have witnessed today is alien to Nigeria.”
He said at a meeting which Justice Ojukwu called to be held in her chambers with him and the prosecuting counsel, Hassan Liman (SAN), the judge “expressed dismay” over the development as she said, “she was made to flee her court”.
After the meeting Falana and the prosecuting counsel, Hassan Liman (SAN), held with the judge, the defence lawyer criticised the operatives’ move to make an arrest within the court premises.
He offered to drive his client to the DSS headquarters in Abuja.
The operatives agreed with the arrangement as they drove in vehicles in front and behind Falana’s car while they made their way to the DSS headquarters.
Sowore, a presidential candidate of the African Action Congress in the February 2019 general election, and his co-defendant is facing a seven-count charge bordering on conspiracy to commit a treasonable felony in breach of Section 516 of the Criminal Code Act, money laundering and cybercrimes amongst others.
They pleaded not guilty to the charge and were granted bail on October 4, in the sum of N100m and N50m respectively with two sureties in like sum.
For Sowore, one of the sureties according to the judge must deposit the sum of N50m cash as security for the bail.
However, the court had two weeks later varied the bail conditions following a request to that effect.
Justice Ojukwu had signed the release of the bail of the defendants after they met the bail conditions, but the DSS had refused to release them even after evidence that they have met the conditions attached to the bail.
However, at the resumed hearing on Thursday, Justice Ojukwu was infuriated that her order on the release of the defendants was yet to be obeyed.
Falana had complained to the court that its order as regards the release of documents and the defendants who have been granted bail and have met the attached conditions has not been complied with by the prosecution.
A development which led yo the court given a 24-hour ultimatum for the DSS to release Sowore and his codefendants and slammed the agency with N100, 000 fine.