Hours after Sowore was released on bail following a court order, he has been rearrested in yet another controversial circumstances.
Following dramatic scenes in court on Friday, DSS agents attempted to arrest Sowore, resulting in a scuffle involving his lawyers. Following the incident, Femi Falana, one of Nigeria’s most prominent lawyers and lead of Sowore’s legal team, confirmed the activist was back in DSS custody.
Sowore, publisher of Sahara Reporters, an online news platform that focuses on uncovering political scandals and corruption in Nigeria, was also a presidential candidate in Nigeria’s last elections in February.
His first arrest was on Aug. 3 on charges of treason with the government claiming the activist planned to overthrow the current administration after he called for a protest dubbed “Revolution Now.” He also faces money laundering and cyber-stalking charges.
In spite of the bail he was granted in October, he had been kept in DSS custody until his initial release yesterday.
While the reason for his rearrest remains unclear, his legal team have branded it a disregard for the rule of law.
Bob Menendez, a US Senator from New Jersey, where Sowore’s family is based, described his rearrest as a “blatant miscarriage of justice [which] is symptomatic of closing political and media space in Nigeria.” Menendez says he’ll be working with the US Ambassador to Nigeria to secure Sowore’s release.
“The attempted abduction and eventual rearrest of prisoners of conscience Omoyele Sowore and Olawale Bakare, including the desecration of the Nigerian judiciary by SSS officials tells a bigger story of impunity and flagrant disregard for the rule of law by the Nigerian government,” said Amnesty International Nigeria in astatementshared on social media.
There’s little doubt that Buhari’s administration and his ruling party the All Progressive Congress, which has control of the Senate, are keen to tighten controls on some forms of free speech.
In particular activists have raised concerns around two bills currently being considered by the Nigerian Senate which are believed to target freedom of expression online, including one which proposes the death penalty for those found guilty of “hate speech”.