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No evidence that 313 ‘suspected terrorists’ committed any crimes

29 March 2024
Reading time: 4 minutes

High Court orders military to release 313 detainees, saying ‘the prosecution counsel could not charge them with any offence due to lack of sufficient evidence against them’.

The Federal High Court in Maiduguri has ordered the release of 313 “suspected terrorists” who were arrested during the peak of the insurgency in Borno State.

Major-General Edward Buba, director of defence media operations, told journalists in Abuja on Thursday, March 28, that the court ordered their release after it ruled that there was no evidence they committed any crimes.

“The court ordered their release for want of evidence after the conclusion of investigations and other ancillary matters,” Buba said.

“The cases were prosecuted by the department of prosecution, part of the federal ministry of justice, and the people have been handed over to the Borno State government for further action.”

Buba did not disclose where the men had been held or how long they had been in custody.

However, it was believed most of the men had been detained in the Giwa Barracks in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, where hundreds – if not thousands – of men have been held since the start of the insurgency.

Humanitarian agencies have often accused authorities of infringing the rights of suspects, many of whom have been found to be innocent of any crimes.

A statement released by the justice ministry said: “The prosecution counsel could not charge them [with] any offence due to lack of sufficient evidence against them.”

Buba’s announcement followed the news on Tuesday, March 26, that 230 detainees – including 219 men and 11 women – had been exonerated of having links to the Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’way Wa’l-Jihād (JAS), better known as Boko Haram, and had been handed over to the Borno State government before being “properly reintegrated” into society.

Parents, guardians and relatives – whose sons, brothers and husbands are still in detention after they were arrested by the military at the peak of the insurgency – are now optimistic that their loved ones could be released soon.

They have urged the military to fast-track their release, saying the men are innocent and never had any links to the JAS.

Some of them have been in detention since 2010, a year after the insurgency began.

Family members said they had been detained for years without trial.

Falmata Aliyu, who lives in Maiduguri, told RNI that her son was falsely arrested by the military about five years ago.

“He is still in detention and has never been convicted. He hasn’t even been to court. With the recent release of other innocent men, I still have hope that my son will be freed. He was never part of Boko Haram. My son is innocent. All I want is for him to be released so that he can come home.

“I commend the military for freeing the cleared and exonerated detainees. I’m happy for the families whose sons, brothers and husbands will soon be returned to them.

“Now I hope the military will facilitate the release of the remaining detainees. My dream is that my son will be among them.”

Hajja Yagana, the chairperson of Jire Dole Foundation – a network of survivors and relatives of people who went missing during the insurgency and which was established by, and works under the auspices of, the Allamin Foundation for Peace and Development – told RNI that the foundation was trying to get all innocent men released from the Giwa Barracks in Maiduguri as well as other detention centres.

“My son is among those who were falsely arrested and detained by the military. He was arrested about six years ago and he is still in detention. All the relatives of innocent detainees are extremely optimistic now that our loved ones will soon be freed.

“The release of more than 200 detainees by the Nigerian Army is a huge progress for the Jire Dole Foundation and other human rights groups. We continually struggle and put more pressure on the military and other relevant stakeholders to release all innocent men being held for no reason.

“We are delighted to hear that a court has ordered the release of 313 more detainees. Of course we hope our loved ones will be among them but, even if they aren’t, we will continue to fight for the release of our innocent men.

“The freed detainees are yet to be reunited with their families. Most of them have been in detention for many years. Because they were innocent and falsely incarcerated, the length of time in detention has taken its toll. They need to undergo medical check-ups at a rehabilitation centre to ensure that they are physically and mentally sound and stable before they can be reunited with their families.”



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