Christian Journalist Remains Imprisoned after Judge Fails to Attend Court
12/08/2021 Nigeria (International Christian Concern) – The ruling to set bail for imprisoned Christian Journalist Luka Binniyat was canceled on Monday, December 6th, when the Judge didn’t arrive to court.
“The Judge went on leave December 1st, he will not be on seat,” a court employee told the defense council just two hours prior to the hearing.
An ICC representative who attended the hearing spoke with a member of Southern Kaduna People’s Union (SOKAPU). His name will be kept confidential for security purposes. “This is a deliberate act to continue the persecution of Binniyat,” the source told ICC. “The Kaduna state government is not ready to free Binniyat for saying the truth. We are facing a series of threats because of our beliefs.”
Binniyat was arrested on November 4th after the Epoch Times published his report about Fulani militia attacks against Christian communities in Kaduna state.
Communicating via WhatsApp, Binniyat discussed his predicament last month with an ICC contact. “They brought me to Barnawa Chief Magistrate Court Kaduna and clamped me in a tiny, dinghy, crammed jail with some hardened-looking criminals,” he said. “I was smuggled here from the police detention facility in Gabasawa after four days without trial. [I was held in] dehumanizing conditions… I fear that my life is in danger.”
According to a Christian Solidarity International report, Binniyat was later charged under Nigeria’s 2015 Cybercrime Prevention and Prohibition Act. This act criminalizes “cyberstalking” – defined as speech that is “grossly offensive” or “causes annoyance”.
“I’m not happy to celebrate Christmas without my husband,” said Binniyat’s wife, Gladys, after Monday’s court hearing. She is the mother of five boys and one girl and told ICC that the children need him. “They want to see him—celebrating Christmas without him will affect the entire family, including his sick father who is staying with us,” she said. “It is becoming difficult to feed the children. His absence is affecting us.”
Yesterday, ICC was able to contribute aid for Binniyat’s family while he remains behind bars. Gladys stated that she is pleased with Christians who have been praying for the freedom of her husband.
In a press statement, the International Committee on Nigeria said Luka Binniyat was “reporting what he believed to be the truth, which should be protected by the Nigerian constitution in a so-called democratic society. His quotes were not threatening nor were they defamatory as they reported an ongoing crisis in southern Kaduna.”
Last week the U.S. Department of State announced its list of designations freedom violators around the world. Notably missing from the list was Nigeria, which last year was designated as a Country of Particular Concern for having engaged in or tolerated “systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.” No explanation was given for the change, which surprised human rights watchdog groups in D.C. and around the world.
“The United States has been a consistent champion of religious freedom around the world for years, so State Department’s decision to exclude Nigeria from the Country of Particular Concern list is extremely surprising and disappointing,” said Jay Church, ICC’s Advocacy Manager for Africa. “Taking Nigeria off the CPC list does not accurately reflect the dire situation on the ground in Nigeria, as Luka’s case illustrates. Persecution, directed by the government, is alive and well in Nigeria and should be universally condemned by the international community.”
ICC recently published a report analyzing how state governments in Nigeria are furthering persecution. Of particular concern are the twelve central and northern states that encourage or allow the implementation of criminal Sharia law and the use of Sharia courts to enforce Islamic religious codes.
Kaduna State, where Binniyat was arrested, is a particularly dangerous place to be a Christian in Nigeria. ICC’s recent report also highlights Kaduna’s problematic Governor El-Rufai, who recently clamped down on religious expression when he resurrected the military-era Interfaith Preaching Regulatory Council to regulate preaching and pastoring.
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