Govt rearraigns Sowore, Bakare, trial adjourned

The trial of the Sahara Reporters publisher, Omoyele Sowore, and his co-defendant, Olawale Bakare, on amended charges of treasonable felony, was again stalled at the Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday.

The judge, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, adjourned till March 11, 12 and 13 for trial.

The defendants were earlier on Thursday rearraigned on amended two counts.

They pleaded not guilty to the charges as they earlier did in September last year when the original seven counts were read to them.

In the amended two counts, the prosecution accused them of organising a protest tagged #RevolutionNow aimed at toppling the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).

Five other counts comprising money laundering and cyberstalking Buhari had been removed following the amended charges filed on January 11, 2020.

The prosecution had sought to commence trial by calling the first witness after the defendants took their pleas on Thursday, but the matter could not proceed because the prosecution had yet to serve on the defence copies of the electronic video CDs which the prosecution had indicated it would rely on.

The trial was similarly stalled earlier on Wednesday due to the prosecution’s failure to serve prosecution witnesses’ statements on the defence.

The judge had to award a fine of N200,000 to be paid by the prosecution to the defence for causing a frivolous adjournment of the case.

At Thursday’s proceedings, leading prosecuting counsel, Mr Aminu Alilu, and defence counsel, Abdul Mahmud, confirmed that the money was paid to the defence team on Wednesday.

Alilu also pleaded with the judge to give him two weeks to enable him to gather all the necessary materials needed to be served on the defence.

The prosecuting counsel, who is from the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation, explained that the delay in serving the materials on the defence was due to the fact that the AGF only took over the case from the Department of State Services in December.

Assuring the court that the AGF office was prepared to prosecute the case, Alilu said his team was prepared to present its witnesses within four days.

Responding, the defence lawyer, Abdul Mahmud, reminded the judge that the materials had yet to be served his team as ordered and reiterated by the court on numerous occasions.

He also requested to have two weeks on being served with the materials to enable his team to study them.

Justice Ojukwu, who noted that she had long issued the order for the service of the materials on the defendants, granted the requests and adjourned till March 11 for definite trial.
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