Nigeria: Trial of separatist leader Nnamdi Kanu adjourned

Judge postpones trial of leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra group to January 19 and 20 next year.

Kanu (second left) pleaded not guilty at his last court appearance on October 21 [File: Kola Sulaimon/AFP]

The trial of separatist leader Nnamdi Kanu in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, has been adjourned until January after his lead lawyer walked out in protest against the refusal by security agents to allow access to the courtroom to other members of the legal defence team.

At his last court appearance on October 21, Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), pleaded not guilty to seven charges that included “terrorism”, treason and perpetuating falsehoods against President Muhammadu Buhari.

Kanu’s lawyers planned to challenge the competence of the charges on Wednesday, but said they were barred by state security agents from entering the courtroom.

“I have not seen such a travesty of justice,” lead lawyer Ifeanyi Ejiofor told reporters outside the courtroom.

Kanu’s United States-based lawyer Bruce Fein was among those denied entry.

“If you are accused of a crime, you have the right to counsel. And he has been denied access to me five times,” he said, adding the Nigerian judiciary could not be “trusted”.

In a court recording obtained by Reuters news agency, the judge is heard asking if Kanu wanted the trial to proceed in the absence of his lawyers. “No, my Lord,” he replied.

Wednesday’s proceedings lasted 20 minutes and the trial was postponed to January 19 and 20 next year.

Security agents again barred journalists from entering the court.

IPOB is looking for a swath of the southeast, homeland of the Igbo ethnic group, to split from Nigeria. An attempt to secede in 1967 as the Republic of Biafra triggered a three-year civil war that killed more than one million people.

Kanu was first arrested in 2015, but disappeared while on bail in April 2017. More than a year later, he surfaced in Israel.

His social media posts during his absence outraged the government, which said his comments sparked attacks on security forces in southeastern Nigeria.

Security agents produced him in court in Abuja on June 29 after detaining him in an undisclosed country. His lawyer alleged he was detained and mistreated in Kenya.

However, the East African nation has denied involvement.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies