Human rights activist, Femi Falana on Sunday said the fresh charge of terrorism filed by the Kaduna State Government against leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his wife Zeenat constitutes worst violation of judicial process.
The Kaduna State High Court had last week dismissed the 8-count charge of conspiracy and abetment of culpable homicide level against the duo by the Kaduna State Government.
Falana, in a statement said it had been reported in the media that the Kaduna State Government filed a new charge of terrorism and treasonable felony against El-zakzaky and his wife, Zeenat, but said contrary to such reports the new charge was hurriedly filed in the Federal High Court at Kaduna on Tuesday, 26th July in a desperate bid by the government to frustrate the release of the defendants from further incarceration.
“In other words, the new charge was maliciously filed when the Kaduna State Government anticipated that the ruling fixed for July 28 in respect our no case submission would succeed,” he said.
According to Falana, as soon as the new charge was filed, the Bailiff of the Federal High Court was commanded to rush to the Kaduna Correctional Centre to serve same on the defendants, but that the defendants refused to accept service of the charge and directed the Bailiff to serve it on them through their counsel.
He said for reasons best known to the Kaduna State Government, the charge was not served on the defence counsel, saying that on July 28 the trial judge, Honourable Justice Gideon Kurada refused to be intimidated by the forces of oppression as he displayed exceptional courage and judicial independence.
“His Lordship dismissed the eight-count charge on the ground that it was filed under a law enacted in 2017 by the Kaduna State Government for offences that were alleged to have been committed in 2015. Alternatively, the learned trial examined the oral testimony of the 15 witnesses called by the Prosecution, upheld the no-case submission of the defence and discharged the defendants.
The rights activist added that in apparent disregard of the epochal judgment of the Honourable Justice Gideon Kurada, the government sought to subject the defendants to trial under the Terrorism Prevention Act enacted in 2011 for offences that were committed as far back as 2008.
He said since the Kaduna State Government was not sure that the defendants would be convicted for terrorism, the Director of Public Prosecution, Mr. Bayero had announced that an appeal would be filed at the Court of Appeal against the Ruling of the Honourable Justice Gideon Kadura.
“No doubt, the new charge constitutes the worst abuse of the process of the Federal High Court. Once the case charge is served on the defence we shall not hesitate to file the necessary application for the immediate termination of the prosecutorial charade.
“In view of the foregoing, we wish to state, without any fear of contradiction, that the filing of the new charge of terrorism and treasonable felony by the Kaduna State Government has no effect whatsoever on the valid and subsisting order of the Honourable Justice Gideon Kudura for the unconditional release of the defendants from prison custody,” Falana said.
In the same vein, Falana stated that the filing of the proposed notice of appeal by the government would not constitute a stay of action with respect to the order for the release of the defendants.
He said, as law-abiding citizens, the defendants were free to continue to breathe the air of freedom, but noted that since the new charge had failed to achieve its oppressive objective of frustrating the release of the couple from further incarceration, he called on the government to discontinue it without any delay.