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28.03.2019 Africa

Judge Says Absent Pro-Biafran Leader's Trial Will Go On

By AFP
Nnamdi Kanu, pictured in 2017 in the garden of his house in Umuahia, southeast Nigeria, disappeared later that year while on bail, later re-emerging first in Jerusalem, then Britain.  By STEFAN HEUNIS (AFP/File)
MAR 28, 2019 AFRICA
Nnamdi Kanu, pictured in 2017 in the garden of his house in Umuahia, southeast Nigeria, disappeared later that year while on bail, later re-emerging first in Jerusalem, then Britain. By STEFAN HEUNIS (AFP/File)

A Nigerian judge on Thursday said the treason trial of a pro-Biafran leader will go on without him, after he disappeared for more than a year before re-emerging in Israel and Britain.

Nnamdi Kanu, who heads the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) movement, was arrested in October 2015 after calling for a separate homeland for the Igbo people in southeast Nigeria.

The former London estate agent disappeared while on bail in September 2017 after an army raid on his home, only to re-emerge 12 months later in Jerusalem, then in Britain.

Judge Binta Nyako, sitting at the Federal High Court in Abuja, said at the last hearing in November that she wanted Kanu to return to Nigeria to attend the trial in person.

But on Thursday she said she had given the defendant's lawyers "more than enough time to produce him in court".

"The only option open to the court is to order that the trial will continue in his absence," she said, adding that no "reasonable explanation" had been given for his absence.

The judge revoked his bail and issued a warrant for his arrest to ensure he appeared in court before adjourning the case until June 18.

Kanu, who also runs the outlawed Radio Biafra, was standing trial with four other defendants. They are now being tried separately.

Calls for a separate state of Biafra are a sensitive subject in Nigeria, after a unilateral declaration of independence in 1967 sparked a brutal 30-month civil war.

More than one million people died, most of them Igbos, from the effects of conflict and disease.

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