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Court restricts journalists from covering Biafran Zionists secession case

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The Federal High Court in Enugu on Wednesday said journalists not accredited to cover the subsequent trial of 11 men for their alleged secession bid would not be allowed into the court.

The presiding judge, Justice D. V. Agishi, said that the directive became necessary based on the protection sought by the two remaining witnesses in the matter.

“Only accredited journalists will be allowed to cover the proceedings on the next adjourned date.

“l urge journalists to abide by the ethics of their profession and there should not be photograph taking in the court,’’ she said.

The accused persons include Bejamin Onwuka and Ndubishi Nnamchi, both of Enugu North Local Government Area.

They also include Kelvin Ekeh of Enugu East local government, and Japhet Nwodo and Fidelis Nwonu, both residents of Idemili local government in Anambra.

Also facing trial are Paulinus Uzoegbu, Sunday Chukwuma, Uduma Uduma, Betrand Obiekwe, Abraham Ugwu and Ijaga Samson, all residents of Onitsha in Anambra.

The accused persons, arraigned on a four count charge, pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The prosecution counsel, Mr David Kaswe, said the matter was reported to State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID), Enugu on June 5, 2014.

Kaswe asked the defense counsel, Mr Olu Omotayo, to make a formal withdrawal from the matter as oral application was not acceptable.

He said that Omotayo’s withdrawal would pave the way for a quick trial of the accused persons.

He requested that journalist who would cover the proceedings identify themselves by presenting their identity cards at the appropriate place.

“The two remaining witnesses are eye witnesses who will not come openly to testify and that is why they demanded for protection from the court, which the court has granted,’’ he said.

Speaking with journalists, Omotayo said that the ruling on accreditation was as a result of the issue raised by the prosecution counsel that members of the public be excluded from witnessing further proceedings.

“Today we came to court for issues raised by the prosecution counsel that members of the public should be excluded from further proceedings.

“The prosecution counsel said they were bringing two more witnesses and they want members of the public to be excluded and the judge agreed that in subsequent trial and the evidence of those witnesses be held in private,” he said.

He said that acting on the instruction of his clients, he had decided to withdraw from the case, as his clients were alleging that the judge was biased in the matter.

The judge adjourned the matter to June 29 for further motion.

The men are facing trial for allegedly plotting to broadcast a message declaring a state of Biafra at the Enugu State Broadcasting Service.

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