- Expresses hope US will reassess bilateral relations with Nigeria
Adedayo Akinwale ín Abuja
A United States senator, Bob Menendez, has condemned the brazing harrasment and rearrest of the Publisher of Sahara Reporters and the Convener of #RevolutionNow, Mr. Omoyele Sowore, by Department of State Services, adding that he hopes US would reassess its bilateral relations with Nigeria over the rearrest of Sowore and other journalists.
Sowore and another activitist, Olawale Bakare, were rearrested barely few hours after their release from the DSS custody where they had been in the last four months.
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu had on Thursday December 5, frowned on the continued detention of the defendants despite court order to release them on bail.
Consequently, she ordered the DSS to release Sowore and Bakare within 24 hours and to report to the court the following day to confirm that her orders had been complied with.
The DSS, having complied with the order of the court by releasing the duo to their lawyers on Thursday, however made a u-turn on Friday morning seizing Sowore and Bakare right inside the courtroom.
In a video obtained by THISDAY, US Senator Bob Menendez while addressing the press, alongside Sowore’s wife, Opeyemi, declared that: ‘the New Jersey is watching, the United States is watching and the world is watching.’
He stated: “I fear that the brazing and harassment of Mr. Sowore, an activist and journalist whose only crime appears to be exercising his right to free expression is becoming systemic and increasingly closing political and civic space in Nigeria
“The Nigerian court had twice ordered his release on bail and the State Security agencies openly defied the court order each time, needing me to conclude either Nigeria no longer respect the rule of law or the President Buhari is worldly out of touch with what agents of his government are doing in his name. This is unacceptable in a country that calls itself democracy.
“Freedom of the press is a fundamental pillar of democracy and an indispensable check on government. Journalists who risked their lives to expose the truth should be celebrated not incacerated.”
Menendez noted that over 200 years ago, the founding fathers of US had the foresight to recognise the importance of a free press to a fledging democracy and enshrining it in the country’s first amendment, stressing that today, that importance cannot be overstated.
Accordingly to him, it is unacceptable to treat the husband and a father of a US citizen with such blazing cruel. So, we stand here with the family which is devastated by the uncertainty that these actions have caused.
The US Senator stated that his office contacted its Ambassador in Nigeria in an effort to obtain what actions the United States was taking on the issue.
In days to come, Menendez noted that he would continue to engage with the State Department in Washington to ascertain the impact of the rearrest of Sowore and the detention of other activists and journalists on the relationship the US has with Nigeria.
He added, “My hope is that the bilateral relationship we have with Nigeria will be reassessed in the light of this event. Mr. Sowore needs to be freed and he needs to be freed now. The rule of law must be observed which means he has to be liberated.”
On her part, Sowore’s wife, Opeyemi, said that after spending over 125 days in detention illegally, her husband spoke with her and the children before he was rearrested.
She said: “I’m truly shaking to my core with what I witnessed this morning (Friday). I woke up 4am to see what I can only call outrageous and a growth in disregard to the rule of law
“My husband was strangled and forcefully removed from the courtroom, the judge had to run and hide for her own safety. How do I tell my children who after 125 days have for the first time spoken to their dad and seeing his face that he was again in detention and that he may not be coming home for Christmas.