Witness refuses to testify against terror suspects unmasked
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.