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Security Agents Arrest, Release Two Printers, Hunt For Human Rights Activist


On 1 August 2005 at about noon (local time), operatives of Nigeria's intelligence agency, the State Security Service (SSS), arrested two printers, Steve Omali and Michael Damisa, at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport  in Abuja and subsequently detained them for being in possession of
advocacy campaign materials which they printed for the Coalition Against Impunity.


The coalition is an alliance of over 345 NGOs in 17 African and non-African countries campaigning to ensure accountability for international crimes for which fugitive former Liberian President, Mr. Charles Taylor, has been indicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

Omali and Damisa had printed a set of posters on the "Charles Taylor Wanted" campaign at the request of the Coalition, which is led by the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI), Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Nigerian Coalition on the International Criminal Court (NCICC), and the Transitional Justice Working Group in Liberia.

The poster reproduced the "Interpol Red Notice" for Mr. Taylor, which was issued in 2003 by the Interpol, of which Nigeria is a member. The SSS confiscated 10,000 copies of the poster when they arrested the two printers.


At about 3:00 p.m. on 1 August, Damisa's brother, Matthew Damisa, went to visit him at the SSS Headquarters in Abuja and was also arrested by security operatives. He remains in custody, along with the two printers.


On 2 August, two persons claiming to be operatives of the SSS, led by one Victor Igwe, visited the offices of the OSJI in Abuja in search of its Senior Legal Officer for Africa, Chidi Anselm Odinkalu. Odinkalu is one of the leaders of the Coalition and a lawyer in a pending suit before the Federal High Court in Abuja seeking a judicial review of the legality of the
asylum granted Taylor by the Nigerian government.


The security agents said they had instructions from the Director General of the SSS, Colonel Kayode Are, to bring Odinkalu to SSS headquarters for questioning for allegedly sponsoring the printing of the posters. Odinkalu was in Lagos at the time, but the security agents have paid repeated visits to his office since then and have reportedly told OSJI staff that they
will be willing to trade the detained printers for him. The security agents have
reportedly staked out the premises of the OSJI office in their hunt for him.


On August 4, the SSS released Steve Omali and Michael Damisa from custody. They were released on bail along with Damisa's brother, Matthew Damisa

 

The SSS, however, is continuing its hunt for Chidi Anselm Odinkalu, one of the leaders of the Coalition. They have kept the OSJI premises under surveillance in their search for him.

 

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