by ISE-OLUWA IGE
…Ogwuche’s trial starts today
A Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja, yesterday granted a request by the Federal Government to shield from public view all its witnesses scheduled to testify against the suspected masterminds of Nyanya bombing, which claimed several lives and left scores injured.
The high court also granted a separate order that the witnesses should use a non-public route into the court room to further guarantee their protection.
The witnesses, who are billed to mount witness box from today are, however, to be sighted by lead counsel to the suspects awaiting trial.
But the accused are not to see or know the identities of the prosecution witnesses set to testify against them in the matter. National Mirror reports that the grant of partial shield by the court for the prosecution witnesses had stalled progress in the case as the witnesses refused to attend court.
The prosecution witnesses argued that testifying against the suspected terrorists in the public glare was tantamount to condemning them to the gallows.
The orders of the court followed an application by the prosecution counsel, Mohammed Diri, that the identity of prosecution witnesses be shielded with tinted screen to protect their identity.
With yesterday’s ruling, the Federal Government is expected to open its case today. Aminu Sadiq Ogwuche, Ahmed Abubakar, Mohammed Ishaq, Ya’u Saidu (alias Kofar Rama); Anas Isa, Adamu Yusuf and Nasir Abubakar are facing charges bothering on terrorism and the prosecution team was to call their witnesses.
At the resumed trial yesterday, a representative of the prosecution counsel, M. Ogunsina moved a motion seeking to modify the order of the court made on March 18, 2015. Justice Ahmed Mohammed in his ruling ordered the use of tinted screens to shield the prosecution witnesses to protect them from public view, but to allow only the lead counsel to the accused persons, access to view the facial identities of the prosecution witnesses.
The court further granted the request of the prosecution that the prosecution witnesses protected access to the court room through a non public route.
In a five paragraphs affidavit in support of the motion, the deponent stated that failure to grant it would affect the witnesses’ willingness to sacrifice and give evidence for fear of their lives.
Prosecution specifically told court that the witnesses were currently engaged in field operations in the North East against the Boko Haram insurgency.
In addition, he stated that the application was at the behest of the witnesses who complained of their personal security and that of their families. However, the defense Counsel Ahmed Raji (SAN), and five others vehemently opposed the motion and urged the court not to grant it.
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