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Treason trial: 17 MASSOB members get bail

Posted by By KENNY ASHAKA, Kaduna on 2005/07/07 | Views: 287 |

Treason trial: 17 MASSOB members get bail

Reprieve came Monday for 17 members of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) as the Federal High Court sitting in Kaduna granted them bail and adjourned hearing till next Monday.

Reprieve came Monday for 17 members of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) as the Federal High Court sitting in Kaduna granted them bail and adjourned hearing till next Monday.

The Presiding judge, Justice Abdullahi Liman, granted them bail in the sum of one million naira each and two sureties, who must owe landed property within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court.

Furthermore, the title deed of such landed property must be certified genuine by the relevant land registry and the property inspected by the Principal Registrar of the Federal High Court who shall also swear to an affidavit of inspection in respect to each of the property after the Eze Igbo of Kaduna must have recommended each of the sureties.

The 17 MASSOB members, who were arrested in Kaduna in April, have been in detention since then and were recently charged to court on a four–count charge.
Counsel to the accused, Barrister Festus Okoye, who led five other lawyers, had prayed the court to grant the accused persons bail on liberal terms, arguing that section 118(4) of the Criminal Procedure Acts and section 35(5) of the 1999 constitution give discretion to the judge to grant bail or not. He averred that the fact that the accused persons were charged with the offence of treason, which carries death penalty, did not detract from the power of the court to grant them bail.
However, the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Kaduna State, Barrister Joseph Citta, objected to the bail application, citing the case of Bamaiyi vs the State in which such condition for bail was referred.

In his ruling, Justice Liman said that although the charge against the accused persons carries the death penalty, the accused persons could still get bail.
"I think capital offence carrying capital punishment is the gravest offence with which a citizen can be charged and the tendencies for the accused to excuse himself away from trial at the slightest opportunity is most probable except very cogent and convincing evidence is placed before the court about the probable stability of the accused.

"It is not in doubt that the charge against the accused persons include treason which is punishable with death under section 188(1) of the Criminal Procedure Act and that such an accused shall not be admitted to bail except by a Judge of the High Court. It seems to me however , after a careful perusal of section 118(1) of the CPA that it does not create greater stricture to the right of the accused persons to bail not withstanding that it is a capital offence.

"Other than that, it is only a High Court that has the discretion to grant bail to such an accused and in granting such a bail, the court must exercise the discretion both judicially and judiciously.
"In this case, I have observed that the accused persons have been in prison custody since April this year and the opportunity that seems open to the state to commence trial was quite obvious and that appears to have been prevaricated which resulted in a delay.

"A delay of two or more months in the life of a citizen under a custodian impediment is in all circumstances enough grounds upon which the court may exercise its jurisdiction in favour of the accused", Justice Lima ruled.
He therefore granted them bail and adjourned the matter till July 11 for trial.

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