Jones Abiri, a journalist from Bayelsa State who has been controversially held by the Department of State Services, DSS, for two years, has been arraigned by the Federal Government before a Chief Magistrate’s Court in Abuja.
Abiri was arrested on July 21, 2016, by agents of the DSS at his office in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, who did not inform his family of the reason for his arrest or where he was been taken to.
According to Premium Times, Femi Falana, a prominent human rights activist who is leading Abiri’s legal team, confirmed on Saturday that the incarcerated journalist was put on trial on Friday.
The secret police, according to court papers, accused Abiri of demanding illicit payments to the tune of N500 million.
It was learnt that the magistrate, C. Nweke of Wuse Zone 2 Chief Magistrate’s Court, granted the journalist a N2 million bail.
The magistrate adjourned the case until August 2, a date Falana said coincides with the next adjournment date for a fundament rights suit previously filed to challenge the detention of Abiri.
The arrest of Abiri, publisher of the Bayelsa-based Weekly Source magazine, triggered reactions from several local and foreign journalists and human rights group, who berated the Federal Government over the continued incarceration and incommunicado with his family.
The DSS later disclosed that Abiri wrote a confessional statement of his involvement in the crime while in custody, but the intelligence service’s statement was rejected by media groups.
Journalists across the country continuously used different fora, including the 2018 International Press Institute World Congress hosted by Nigeria earlier this month, to mount pressure on the Buhari government to release Abiri.