Fear for fate of 17 Ogoni activists

Issue 

By Norm Dixon In the wake of the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni activists, Amnesty International fears for the fate of at least 17 other Ogonis still in detention. They too could be unfairly tried, sentenced and executed without right of appeal. "The Nigerian government seems intent on silencing opposition in the country and defying worldwide condemnation", AI said in a statement released on November 16. It called on governments and companies with commercial links with Nigeria to use their influence to save more Ogoni political prisoners. The 17 detainees were arrested in mid-1994 in the wave of arrests of supporters of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) following the murder of four Ogoni leaders in May 1994. They were detained incommunicado and without charge from mid-1994 until June 1995. They were then brought before a magistrate's court in Port Harcourt on a "holding charge", believed to be for murder. A further four men were arrested on October 24, 1995 and charged with murder. One of those detained, Clement Tusima, died in detention in August 1995. He became ill in detention with diabetes last November and was reportedly denied medical treatment until after his transfer to prison custody in June. He was eventually transferred to hospital, where he was chained to his bed, but was subsequently returned to prison where he again became ill and died. Amnesty also reports that a heavier military presence has been imposed on Ogoniland in recent weeks, with roadblocks set up and travellers searched and harassed. There have been further arrests — Bishop John Miller, Reverend Acba and other church ministers have been arrested for leading prayers and vigils for the Ogoni prisoners facing the death sentence.

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