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This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Nigeria: Death Sentence for Activists
Any links to other sites in this file from 1995 are not clickable,
given the difficulty in maintaining up-to-date links in old files.
However, we hope they may still provide leads for your research.
Nigeria: Death Sentence for Activists
Date Distributed (ymd): 951101

Pressure from around the world is mounting on the Nigerian
government following the death sentence handed down earlier
this week for Nigerian activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and his
colleagues.  Reaction has come not only from Nigerian pro-
democracy activists and human rights organizations, but also
from environmental groups.

While the major immediate focus is on saving the lives of
the condemned activists, Nigerian pro-democracy campaigners
also stress that pressure on the regime needs to be
escalated for release of all detainees and for an end to
military rule.  Nobel-prize-winning Nigerian author Wole
Soyinka urged South Africa in particular to lead the
international community in imposing strict economic
sanctions on military-ruled Nigeria. "There has to be the
threat of withdrawal of diplomatic relations and severe
economic sanctions," Soyinka, told BBC radio from exile in
Britain. "It is the only way lives will be saved," he said.

The Nigerian Democratic Movement issued the following
statement.  The two additional bulletins below, from Amnesty
International and Friends of the Earth, provide additional
background and indicate possible action.

************************************************************

About Ken Saro-Wiwa
--------------------

The death sentences announced today on Ken Saro-Wiwa and
other Ogoni activists are simply outrageous, and represent
not only a continuation of the oppressive nature of this
regime, but also its latest manifestation of a new
tendency to draw attention to itself to elicit legitimacy:
death sentences, world appeals for clemency, commutation
(?), relief from international pressure?  No one must be
fooled.

The Nigerian Democratic Movement and other well-meaning
Nigerians demand justice, freedom and fair-play in Nigeria,
and will settle for nothing less.  We ask that you join us
in vigorously protesting this official policy of
hostage-taking by the military junta in Nigeria, and DEMAND
THAT NO ONE MUST BE OFFICIALLY MURDERED, not the alleged
coupists (for example, in retaliation for their latest
revelations), not Saro-Wiwa or any other Ogoni
activists.

===========================================
Issued by the Executive Council of the Nigerian Democratic
Movement (NDM),  P.O. Box 91291, Washington, DC 20090;  Tel:
202/806-4793; 301/989-0016; 202/395-7052; 301/808-0800;
Fax: 202/806-4632; Email contact: maluko@scs.howard.edu

********************************************************

+------------------------------------------------------+
+     AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL URGENT ACTION BULLETIN     +
+     Electronic distribution authorised               +
+     This bulletin expires: 12 December 1995.         +
+------------------------------------------------------+
EXTERNAL   AI Index: AFR 44/25/95       31 October 1995

Further information on UA 200/94 (AFR 44/03/94, 24 May 1994)
and follow-up (AFR 44/07/94, 27 June 1994) - Prisoners of
conscience / Legal concern / Health concern and new
concerns: Unfair trial / Death penalty

NIGERIA

Ken Saro-Wiwa, writer and environmentalist,
President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni
People (MOSOP)

Dr Barinem Kiobel, former Rivers State
Commissioner (minister)

and new names:    Saturday Dobee
                  Paul Levura
                  Nordu Eawo
                  Felix Nuate
                  Daniel Gbokoo
                  John Kpuinen, student
                  Baribor Bera, farmer

On 30 and 31 October 1995, after what Amnesty International
believes to have been politically-motivated and unfair
trials, the nine people named above were convicted of murder
and sentenced to death by hanging.  Amnesty International
considers at least two of them - Ken Saro-Wiwa and Dr
Barinem Kiobel - to be prisoners of conscience, imprisoned
for the non-violent expression of their political views.

The nine were convicted in connection with the murder of
four Ogoni leaders by an angry crowd in May 1994, for which
the leadership of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni
People (MOSOP) was pronounced responsible by the authorities
the day after the murders.  MOSOP, a non-governmental
organization in Rivers State, southeast Nigeria, has been
targeted by the government in recent years for its
non-violent campaign against environmental damage by oil
companies and for more autonomy for the Ogoni ethnic group.

The defendants were detained incommunicado and without
charge for at least eight months before being charged;
several were alleged to have been tortured or ill-treated in
military custody.  They were convicted in two trials
conducted simultaneously by a Civil Disturbances Special
Tribunal in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. This court, which
falls outside the normal judicial system, was appointed by
the military government especially to try these cases.

The trials contravened Nigerian and international standards
for fair trial to which the Nigerian government is
committed, in particular the right to fair trial by an
independent court and the right of appeal to a higher and
independent jurisdiction. The Tribunal has shown itself to
be neither independent of government control nor impartial.
The Federal Military Government has controlled every aspect
of the case: the arrests, investigations, prosecution,
appointment of the tribunal and the progress of the trial
itself. Two key prosecution witnesses alleged that they were
threatened and bribed to give false evidence.  The defence
lawyers withdrew from the trials in June and July 1995 in
protest at continued bias by the Tribunal in favour of the
prosecution.

Ledum Mitee and four other defendants in the two trials were
acquitted.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Following the death in detention in August 1995 of detainee
Clement Tusima, apparently after months of serious illness
and medical neglect (see UA 219/95, AFR 44/19/95, 15
September), at least 17 other Ogoni detainees arrested in
mid-1994 remain imprisoned without trial.  They were
detained incommunicado and without charge until June 1995
when they were transferred from police detention to prison
custody on a "holding charge", but it is not clear whether
they too are to be tried by the Civil Disturbances Special
Tribunal in connection with the same murders.

For further information, please refer to Nigeria: the Ogoni
trials and detentions, 15 September 1995 (AFR 44/20/95).

+-----------------------------------------------------------
+
+ Supporters of Amnesty International around the world are
+ writing urgent appeals in response to the concerns
+ described above. If you would like to join with them in
+ this action or have any queries about the Urgent Action
+ network or Amnesty International in general, please
+ contact one of the following:
+
+      Ray Mitchell, rmitchellai@gn.apc.org (UK)
+      Scott Harrison, sharrison@igc.org (USA)
+      Guido Gabriel, ggabriel@amnesty.cl.sub.de (Germany)
+      Marilyn McKim, aito@web.apc.org (Canada)
+      Michel Ehrlich, mehrlich@aibf.be (Belgium)
+-----------------------------------------------------------
******************************************************

FRIENDS OF THE EARTH-US
October 31, 1995

EMERGENCY ALERT****EMERGENCY ALERT****EMERGENCY ALERT

NIGERIAN ENVIRONMENTALIST, KEN SARO-WIWA, SENTENCED TO DEATH

Ken Saro-Wiwa, environmental activist and leader of the
Ogoni people in the Niger Delta, and nine others were
sentenced today to death by a Nigerian military tribunal.
Saro-Wiwa, recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize and
nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, leads the struggle of
the Ogoni people against Shell Oil, whose operations have
contaminated their land and resources for more than three
decades.  Last year, Saro-Wiwa was jailed in connection with
the murder of four Ogoni leaders, which human rights groups
have said are false charges.  Amnesty International has
declared Saro-Wiwa a Prisoner of Conscience.

The four year peaceful campaign of the Ogonis has been met
by repression from the Nigerian military dictatorship
leading to the deaths of more than 1,000 Ogoni.  Shell Oil
has also been implicated in the violence that has
transcended this region.  According to human rights groups,
Shell has used military personnel to defend their oil
operations, resulting in some injuries and deaths.  Since
1958, Royal Dutch Shell has extracted US $30 billion in oil
from Ogoniland, but the Ogoni people still lack basic
services, healthcare, and jobs.

ACTIONS TO TAKE:

1.  Contact the Clinton Administration and ask that the
Administration come out strongly against this sentencing and
demand the release of Saro-Wiwa and the others.  The United
States has political pull with Nigeria, particularly given
that the U.S. consumes 70 percent of Nigeria's oil.

Specifically, we are asking that Clinton call General Abacha
of Nigeria, denouncing the verdicts and warn that if these
people are put to death, it will have profound political
ramifcations.

Fax a letter or call:
     Anthony Lake
     Assistant to the President for National
     Security Affairs
     National Security Council
     Washington, DC 20504
     tel: 202-395-3000 fax: 202-456-2883

2. Send a letter to General Abacha, the military ruler of
Nigeria, asking for Saro-Wiwa's immediate release, citing
the international condemnation this sentencing has received.

Fax letter to:

General Sani Abacha
President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
c/o The Nigerian Ambassador to the United States
Nigerian Embassy
1333 16th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
fax: 202-775-1385

3.  Send a letter to Shell denouncing their role in the
Ogoni situation and asking for Shell to come out strongly
for the release of the wrongly accused.

Fax letter to:
Phillip J. Carroll, CEO
Shell Oil Corporation Houston, Texas
fax: 713-241-4044

For more infomation, contact:  Andrea Durbin, FRIENDS OF THE
EARTH-USFoE-US tel: 202-783-7400, ext 209 fax: 202-783-0444
email: foedc@igc.org.

*******************************************************
This material is being reposted for wider distribution
by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC's
primary objective is to widen the policy debate in the
United States around African issues and the U.S. role
in Africa, by concentrating on providing accessible
policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a
wide range of groups and individuals.  APIC is
affiliated with the Washington Office on Africa (WOA),
a not-for-profit church, trade union and civil rights
group supported organization that works with Congress
on Africa-related legislation.

*******************************************************


URL for this file: http://www.africafocus.org/docs95/nig9511.php