Abuja – The jailed Nigerian leader of a separatist group pleaded not guilty to more charges in his terrorism trial on Wednesday, his lawyers said, six months after he was detained overseas and flown back to the country.
Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra or IPOB movement which agitates for a separate state for the Igbo people in southeast Nigeria, was already facing terrorism and treason charges.
But prosecutors at the Abuja court added eight new charges to his case including incitement to violence before his appearance this week, according to Kanu’s legal team.
He pleaded not guilty and his lawyers have filed a motion for dismissal of all charges with another hearing set for February 16.
“If there are worse cases of concocted alleged offences with ulterior political motives, they do not readily come to mind,” his US-based attorney Bruce Fein told AFP.
Tensions have been on the rise in southeast Nigeria, with a spate of attacks against security forces and also election offices over the last year.
Police have blamed the IPOB’s military wing, the Eastern Security Network or ESN, but IPOB denies any involvement in the violence.
Kanu was first arrested in 2015 after agitating for a homeland for the Igbo people. In 2017, he jumped bail, reappearing in Britain, where he is also a citizen.
Last June, Nigeria’s attorney general Abubakar Malami announced that Kanu had been brought back to Nigeria in order to face trial.
Officials did not give details of the location or manner of his capture, but his family and lawyers say he was illegally snatched in Kenya and brought back to Nigeria in an extraordinary rendition.
In another ruling on Wednesday, a court in Abia State ruled in favour of Kanu in a lawsuit against the government saying security forces had violated his rights during a raid on his home, another of his lawyers said on Twitter.
“Nnamdi Kanu WINS as Abia High Court rules that Federal government violated his fundamental rights. Orders Federal government to pay (One billion naira or $2.4 million) to him & issue a letter of apology,” Aloy Ejimakor said in a tweet.
Calls for autonomy or a separate state are especially sensitive in southeast Nigeria, where a civil war five decades ago left around one million people dead from fighting and starvation.
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