Nigeria adds new charges as Biafran separatist leader Kanu's trial resumes

  • World
  • Tuesday, 18 Jan 2022

FILE PHOTO: Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) leader Nnamdi Kanu is seen with his counsel at the Federal high court Abuja, Nigeria January 20, 2016. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

ABUJA (Reuters) - The lawyer of an outlawed Nigerian separatist leader, whose trial is due to resume on Tuesday, accused authorities of extending his client's time in custody by filing new charges against him.

Nnamdi Kanu heads Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a group he founded in 2014 that is pressing for the secession of the Igbo ethnic group's homeland, which covers part of southeast Nigeria.

An attempt by the homeland to secede as the Republic of Biafra in 1967 - the year that Kanu was born - triggered a three-year civil war that killed more than 1 million people.

Nigerian authorities view IPOB as a terrorist group and last year accused it of a string of attacks on police stations and government offices in the southeast. The group denies this and has called the accusations an attempt to force it to disband.

Kanu, a British citizen, was arrested in 2015 but disappeared while on bail in April 2017. Authorities say social media commentaries that he posted and broadcasts that he made on separatist Radio Biafra before he was recaptured encouraged attacks on security forces.

Kanu has pleaded not guilty to all seven charges that he faces, which include terrorism, calling for secession and knowingly broadcasting falsehoods about President Muhammadu Buhari.

Kanu's lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, said on Tuesday that prosecutors had now served the defence team with an amended charge sheet running to 15 counts.

The amended sheet represented "the worst kind of abuse of legal process" and was designed to delay the trial and keep Kanu in detention, Ejiofor said in a statement.

Nigerian security forces have prevented the media and some of Kanu's supporters from attending his trial.

Kanu appeared in court in Abuja last June 29 after being detained in an undisclosed country. His lawyer alleged he was captured and mistreated in Kenya. Nairobi has denied involvement.

(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; editing by John Stonestreet)

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