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The Police, yesterday, secretly commenced the trial of Premium Times journalist, Samuel Ogundipe, at a Magistrate’s Court in Kubwa, while denying him access to his lawyers.
He was charged with criminal trespass and theft of police document.
Earlier, Premium Times staff and the company’s lawyer visited the detention facility of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, in Abuja, where Mr. Ogundipe is being detained, and were allowed to see Ogundipe at 10a.m.
They were also briefed by the Deputy Commissioner of Police handling the supposed investigation, Sani Ahmadu.
Ahmadu and other Police officers present asked the newspaper’s lawyer and other staff present to leave the SARS facility and return at 4p.m.
Earlier, the Police Commissioner had interrogated Ogundipe and repeatedly asked him to name his source for a story as a condition for his freedom.
Despite the protest by the lawyer, Ahmadu said no action would be taken until 4p.m., when he asked the lawyer to return.
However, at about 4p.m., Premium Times’Editor-in-Chief, Musikilu Mojeed, received a call from the court, and was informed that, against the Police boss’ promise, Ogundipe had been secretly taken to the Kubwa Magistrate’s Court for trial.
Even though he repeatedly told the Police that he would, as legally allowed, need to contact his lawyers or his employer before going to court, the Police refused.
When the charge was brought before the magistrate, there was no mention that Ogundipe is a journalist. Police only told the magistrate he was being charged with criminal trespass and theft of Police document.
The magistrate then gave an order that he be detained for five more days, till August 20.
Magistrate helps with phone call
It was the magistrate who ordered that he be allowed to make a call while within the court premises.
Ogundipe then used the phone of a court official to contact his Editor-in-Chief.
He said the Police accused him of violating Sections 352, 288 and 319 of the Penal Code.
A review of the sections, however, indicated that they are not related to the charges but are about sexual assault and attempted murder.