Friday, October 17, 2014

Courtroom closure in Nigeria

More information has become available about precisely how the news media came to be excluded from the current mutiny court-martial in Nigeria. According to Leadership's account,
Although the president of the court, Brig-Gen. M. S. Yusuf, had earlier promised to make it an open court, that was not to be again because when journalists arrived in the court yesterday for the continuation of the trial, they were asked out of the court midway into the proceedings.
It all began when the second prosecution witness, who is the second in command to the commanding officer, 111 Special Forces Battalion, Lt-Col Timothy Opulum, PW1, began to give evidence.
As he was speaking, an unidentified man went round the court, whispering to journalists that an "officer outside wants to see you."
When asked what the problem was, the plainclothes man, suspected to be an Army personnel, said "I don't know."
Outside the courtroom, spokesman of the garrison, Colonel Aliyu Yusuf, however, appealed to journalists to bear with them, saying that the Army would send invitations across to the journalists at the right time. He said the need to promote national security informed the action.
During the court proceedings on Wednesday, there were serious issues of national security bordering on military operations raised and considered in the open court, which were said to be putting ongoing operations in the North East at risk.
At a point during the proceeding, the court-martial president, who was discomfited by the revelations of military strategies, had to stop the witness and both lawyers, explaining that his action was informed by the need not to probe into matters that could endanger national security.
In spite of this, the defence lawyers appeared ready to ask all the sensitive questions if they would help to save the necks of their clients.

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