Wit­ness re­fuses to tes­tify against ter­ror sus­pects un­masked

Daily Trust - - NEWS - By John Chuks Azu

A wit­ness in the ter­ror­ism trial of a univer­sity lec­turer and two oth­ers in an Abuja Federal High Court stunned the court yes­ter­day when he re­fused to tes­tify un­less he was given a fa­cial mask.

The three ac­cused per­sons, Muhammed Nazeef Yusuf (PhD), Salami Ab­dul­lahi (busi­ness­man) and Musa Umar were on Fe­bru­ary 3 ar­raigned by the At­tor­ney Gen­eral of the Fed­er­a­tion on an eight count charge bor­der­ing on con­spir­acy and ter­ror­ism over al­leged plot to at­tack Kogi State.

The trial was how­ever stalled when the prose­cu­tion wit­ness re­fused to en­ter the wit­ness box on se­cu­rity grounds. Prose­cu­tion coun­sel, N.B. Jones-Nebo in­formed the court that the wit­ness, who was in the court premises, said he could only tes­tify if he wore a mask.

The federal govern­ment had filed an ap­pli­ca­tion seek­ing to re­strict the mem­bers of the pub­lic from the trial ex­cept close fam­ily mem­bers and ac­cred­ited mem­bers of the press. The ap­pli­ca­tion also sought to pro­tect the iden­ti­ties of wit­nesses.

But in his rul­ing, Jus­tice Gabriel Ko­la­wole up­held the ob­jec­tion of de­fence coun­sel Has­san Li­man (SAN), James Ocholi (SAN) and Ab­dul Muhammed that trial in se­cret will of­fend the rights of the ac­cused per­sons.

He there­fore ruled that the court can only pro­vide lo­gis­tics to shield the face of wit­nesses from pub­lic view while their voices could be heard by mem­bers of the pub­lic dur­ing pro­ceed­ings. He added that the wit­nesses can use acronyms in place of their real names and the ad­dresses of the State Se­cu­rity Ser­vice (SSS) in place of their orig­i­nal ad­dresses.

Mean­while, the judge has ad­vised prose­cu­tion to file an ap­pli­ca­tion to amend the rul­ing by in­clud­ing the use of fa­cial masks for the wit­nesses or ap­peal against the en­tire rul­ing.

He ad­journed the case to May 6, 7, and 14 for ac­cel­er­ated trial.

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