Eight out of the nine Judaism adherents arrested while praying at the Afaraukwu Umuahia country home of the leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, were Monday granted bail by the Umuahia High Court.
The worshipers, who were arrested by the police on Sunday May 13, had been remanded in the Afara Federal Prison after their arraignment at the magistrate court on May 14 where they were charged for terrorism.
Chief magistrate, O. U Ugwu, had ordered that the accused be remanded in prison custody pending their arraignment in a High Court as the magistrate court lacked jurisdiction over their matter. He, however, chided the police for arraigning the accused before a magistrate court although they knew it had no jurisdiction to entertain such a matter, describing it as a deliberate ploy to keep them in perpetual detention.
Meanwhile, six of the accused were arraigned at the High Court 1 presided over by the acting chief judge of the state, Justice Onuoha Ogwe who granted them bail in the sum of N1 million each.
The other three were arraigned in High Court 3 presided over by Justice O. A Chijioke who granted two of them bail in the sum of N200,000 each, adding that their surety must have verifiable residence and should also deposit two copies of his recent photographs with the court.
One of the accused was however not granted bail as his file was alleged to have “gone missing.” Their lawyer, Alloy Ejimakor, however said he was going to stay behind and fight harder to also secure his bail.
Addressing newsmen later, Ejimakor expressed joy that after nearly a month of incarceration, the worshipers were able to get justice at last. He thanked the courts for their wisdom in granting them bail although he expressed concern that the bail conditions by the Court 1 were somewhat stringent unlike that of the Court 3.
Ejimakor vowed to inquire why the file of one of the accused suddenly went missing. He insisted that the accused were not terrorists contrary to claims by police, hence the decision of the court to grant them bail “because the prosecution was not able to demonstrate proof of evidence”.
The defense counsel also faulted the charge preferred against the accused saying it was defective and vague”, and vowed to challenge the Abia state anti-terrorism law.
Ejimakor described the trial as religious persecution against the accused “simply because they are of Judaism, which is not among the two dominant religions in Nigeria. He wondered how ordinary civilians in flowing white gown and praising Yahweh could be said to be engaging in threatening behaviour capable of frightening the police.
The lawyer regretted that anybody who seemed to be identifying with the IPOB leader, Kanu, had become a target of the security operatives. He vowed to challenge the action of the security agencies against the religious rights of Judaism adherents and other freedom fighters both ‘nationally and internationally’.