Nigeria: One internet writer released, another detained

English PEN welcomes the provisional release of the US-based internet writer Jonathan Elendu, who was held incommunicado without charge in Abuja from 17 to 29 October 2008. However, we are alarmed by reports that a second US-based internet writer, Emmanuel Emeka Asiwe, has been detained incommunicado without charge since 28 October.

 

Jonathan Elendu, a US-based Nigerian internet writer for Elendureports.com, was provisionally released without charge on 29 October. He had been detained incommunicado without charge for 11 days, having been arrested by the State Security Service (SSS) on his arrival in Abuja for a family visit on 17 October. It is understood that Elendu was initially investigated for “money laundering” and was later accused of “sedition”. He was questioned for five days about his alleged links to another US-based Nigerian news website, Saharareporters.com, his sources and funding and his opinions on the Nigerian president, as well as articles he had written on the president’s health. He was denied legal and medical assistance for most of his detention, only gaining access to his lawyer on the tenth day of his arrest. Some reports suggested that the writer was ill treated during his detention. His travel documents remain confiscated, meaning he is unable to return to the USA. 

 

Meanwhile, another US-based internet writer, Emmanuel Emeka Asiwe, editor of HuhuOnline, is being held incommunicado without charge by SSS in Abuja, probably since 28 October 2008. According to the SSS, Asiwe was arrested on 31 October after he arrived from the USA, but Asiwe’s lawyer says that he was in fact taken into custody at Lagos airport three days earlier. The SSS has reportedly stated that it is questioning the writer about “matters of national security”.

 

Both detentions are in contravention of Nigerian law, which stipulates that anyone arrested must be charged in court within 48 hours. They are reportedly part of a government crackdown on foreign-based Nigerian political websites since the publication of controversial photos of President Umaru Yar’Adua’s son by a popular news blog.

 

English PEN believes that Asiwe, like Elendu, has been detained for his critical reporting on Nigeria. We are therefore calling on the Nigerian authorities charge Asiwe with a recognisable criminal offense or to release him immediately and unconditionally. We also ask that Elendu’s release be made unconditional and his travel documents be returned immediately.

 

Links:

 

Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF): http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=29052

Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ): http://cpj.org/2008/10/second-us-based-nigerian-blogger-held.php

 

Please send appeals:


• Welcoming the release of the internet writer Jonathan Elendu, who was detained incommunicado without charge for 11 days in October 2008;
• However, strongly protesting the incommunicado detention without charge of a second US-based internet writer, Emmanuel Emeka Asiwe, since 28 October 2008. The WiPC believes that Asiwe has been detained for his critical reporting on Nigeria, in violation of his right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Nigeria is party;
• Calling on the Nigerian authorities either to charge Asiwe with a recognisable criminal offense and release him on bail pending trial, or to release him immediately and unconditionally;
• Asking the authorities to ensure that while Asiwe remains in detention, he is not ill treated or tortured and that he receives access to adequate legal and medical assistance;
• Also requesting that Elendu’s release be made unconditional and his travel documents be returned to him immediately.

 

Appeals to:

 

Vice-President
Goodluck Jonathan
Office of the Vice-President
The Presidency, State House, Abuja, Nigeria
Email: info@nigeria.gov.ng
Fax: 234-9-2341733/ 234 9 314 8793
Salutation: Your Excellency

 

Please also send appeals via Nigerian diplomatic representative in the UK:

 

His Excellency Dr. Dalhatu Sarki
Nigeria High Commission
Nigeria House
9 Northumberland Avenue
London
WC2N 5BX
 

Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/bulletins/nigeriaoneinternetwriterreleasedanotherdetained/

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