Leader of pro-Biafra movement – calling for breakaway from Nigeria – faces trial on treasonable felony charges.
Journalists in Nigeria have claimed they are being barred from attending the trial of separatist leader Nnamdi Kanu. The case is taking place at the Federal High Court in the capital of Abuja.
Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob) and director of UK-based Radio Biafra, is standing trial on 11 counts of treasonable felony charges.
Pro-Biafrans are calling for the independence of contested Biafran territories forcibly annexed to Nigeria during British colonisation.
A reporter told IBTimes UK that security forces allegedly blocked the entrance of the court and asked journalists if they had “presidential tags”.
The trial began on 10 January – after the Abuja court ruled, in December, that witnesses testifying against Kanu would be protected by screens and would be using separate entrances to enter the court.
Kanu’s defence team is appealing against the ruling, arguing that it goes against the principles of a fair trial.
His wife, Uchechi Okwu-Kanu, also told IBTimes UK she and people close to her husband will fight to prevent “a secret trial”.
“They don’t have evidence against my husband, there is no case here, they have changed the charges several times,” she said. “He has been accused in the public, they killed several Biafrans in the public, so why try him in secret? We will never allow this to happen, even if takes 20 years.”
Kanu, who holds both British and a Nigerian passports, was arrested in Lagos on 14 October 2015. He is standing trial along with Chidiebere Onwudiwe, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi.
The Abuja High Court initially ruled in favour of granting bail to Kanu. However, in December 2015, Buhari said the Ipob leader would not be released amid fears he could jump bail and flee to the UK.
Kanu was previously facing a six-count treason charge with Madubugwu and Nwawuisi, before the federal government amended the charges to include Onwudiwe.
Earlier this year, the judge presiding over Kanu’s case stepped down. Justice Binta Nyako is now the third judge to handle the high-profile trial.
A Biafran Republic was established in 1967 but re-annexed to Nigeria in 1970, following a bloody civil war that claimed millions of lives.
The Nigerian government has always maintained the country’s unity was a priority and that although peaceful pro-Biafran protests were welcome, demanding the breakaway of the Biafran territories went against the constitution.
Earlier this year, rights group Amnesty International accused Nigerian security forces of killing around 150 people calling for the independence of Biafra.
The army denied the allegations, claiming it intervened to prevent “ethnic clashes” and accused Amnesty of trying to tarnish its image.