The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Friday, refused to conduct the trial of the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, who is facing a six-count treason charge, in secret.
Trial Justice, John Tsoho dismissed the application filed by the federal government filed through the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Mr. Mohammed Diri.
The court also refused to allow the federal government mask eight witnesses billed to testify against Kanu and two other pro-Biafra agitators, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi, who are facing trial with him.
Kanu had vehemently opposed the application by the federal government to conduct his trial in secret. According to the federal government, all the witnesses billed to testify against Kanu and the two other accused persons, declined to appear in court unless their safety was guaranteed.
Consequently, government lawyer, Mr. David Kaswe, prayed Justice Tsoho to issue an order protecting the identities of the witnesses by allowing them to either wear facial mask or to testify behind screens. FG equally applied for an order excluding persons except journalists from witnessing the proceedings.
Justice Tsoho however maintained that section 232 (1) (4 )(e) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015, clearly specified the kind of cases that secret trial could be adopted, stressing that the charge against the defendants did not fall within any of the classifications.
On refusing to allow the witnesses to be masked, Justice Tsoho said there was need for the court to appraise the demeanor and character of the witnesses through their facial expressions.
He re-validated an earlier order the court made on February 9, which permitted accredited journalists, lawyers and family members of the defendants to observe the proceeding subject to the sitting capacity of the courtroom. However, he granted that names and addresses of the witnesses would not be made public in any record of the proceedings.
The case has been adjourned till March 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 for trial.
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