Journalist Luka Binniyat was remanded in custody for forty additional days on 31 August, after the judge refused to review his bail.
Journalist Luka Binniyat
was remanded in custody for forty additional days on 31 August, after the judge
presiding over his trial refused to review his “excessive” bail terms because
a new lawyer would be taking over the case for the
Mr Binniyat, who has been detained since
12 July, is charged with ‘breach
of the peace’ and ‘injurious falsehood,’
in connection with a story he wrote about an attack by
armed Fulani herdsmen in southern Kaduna, that later proved incorrect,
and for which he apologised publicly.
His case highlights
eroding press freedom and the seeming inequality before the law of
different religious communities in Kaduna State.
On 20 July, Mr Binniyat was remanded in
custody again when Justice Bashir Sukola, sitting in
High Court 10 in Kaduna, set what observers described as “nearly impossible”
bail conditions and adjourned the case until 31 August.
Mr Binniyat’s lawyers reportedly filed a
motion for a review of the bail terms on 7 August. However, during the
hearing on 31 August, Judge Sukola adjourned the case until 9 October,
granting an application made
by the prosecution for
a delay in the bail review, in order to allow their new
lawyer time to prepare. As
Mr Binniyat was remanded in custody yet again, his lead lawyer, Barrister
Kanyip, informed the Nigerian media that he would seek redress at the Court
of Appeal if the bail motion is not handled in a satisfactory manner.
Mr Binniyat’s continued detention has been
It is generally viewed as the latest in a series of actions by
the Kaduna State governor to silence voices that draw attention to violence
underway in southern Kaduna, where for over a year armed Fulani herders have
been attacking communities, killing over 800 people
and seizing land and property with relative impunity.
In a message addressed to the Governor of
Kaduna State, Nasir el Rufai, Bishop Joseph Bagobiri of the
Catholic Diocese of Kafanchan described Mr Binniyat as a
political prisoner, and said it
was “a pity that the [...] case was stalled using
casuistries [sic].” He called for Mr Binniyat to be set free,
adding that “only a sadist would be complacent with such injustice.”
In contrast to Mr Binniyat's case, the
individuals behind the 6 June ‘Kaduna Declaration’ remain at large, despite a longstanding arrest
order issued by the governor following a press conference in
which they vilified the Igbo tribe, called for coordinated action against its
members and warned them to leave northern Nigeria
before 1 October or face unspecified consequences.
On 25 August, three United Nations human
rights experts issued a statement describing the Declaration as hate speech,
expressing grave concern at the “proliferation of hate messages and incitement to violence against the Igbo and their
property, especially considering the previous history of such violence”, and
called for the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators.
Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian
Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said: “It is manifestly unjust that Mr
Binniyat, who is yet to be found guilty, is obliged
to remain in prison due to bail terms that far exceed the nature of the crime
he is alleged to have committed. Moreover, the judge’s actions, and
particularly his refusal to review the bail terms while granting a lengthy deferral, have the unfortunate appearance of being punitive
measures designed to deprive Mr Binniyat of his liberty for as long as possible,
and in a manner incompatible with
judicial impartiality and due process. Meanwhile, individuals who have incited
violence against a people group were able to reiterate these threats publicly on several
occasions and are yet to be arrested.”
“Selective arrests and prosecutions are
divisive and self defeating, undermining the rule of law and eroding any
residual confidence in the state government at a time
of increasing security challenges. We
echo the call for Mr Binniyat to be set free, and for an end to political prosecutions that are aimed at suppressing
press freedom and freedom of expression. We also urge the state government to focus its efforts on arresting genuine
instigators and perpetrators of violence, and on protecting
the lives of citizens, regardless of their
creed or ethnicity."