Human rights lawyer Femi Falana on Wednesday took a swipe at the Department of State Security (DSS) for insisting on verifying the sureties of #RevolutionNow crusader, Omoyele Sowore, before his release.
Falana, who was accused of playing to the gallery by the DSS on the continued detention of Sowore, blasted the security outfit for constituting itself into an appellate court.
He noted that the Federal High Court attached no condition for the release on bail of Sowore.
He said the DSS never contacted the four lawyers who waited several hours on November 7 for the release of Sowore and Adebayo Bakare as they had promised, adding that the agency was aggravating the felony of contempt of court by asking sureties who had been verified by the trial court to report in its office for an illegal verification.
Reacting to a statement by the DSS on why it was still holding Sowore, Falana said: “On November 6, the Bailiff of the Federal High Court wanted to serve the order of court for the immediate release of Messrs Omoyele Sowore and Adebayo Bakare on the State Security Service (SSS). Under the pretext that the management had closed for the day the Court Bailiff was asked to serve the order at 10am on November 7.
“In the company of four members of the defence team the Court Bailiff served the order on that day. After the four lawyers had waited in vain for hours the SSS asked them to go and that they would be contacted on phone to pick up the two detainees after consultations.
“But the SSS never contacted the lawyers. To our utter dismay, the SSS issued an incendiary statement on November 8 wherein it was claimed that no one had shown up to receive both detainees. Yesterday (Tuesday), two members of the defence team, family members and friends of both detainees reported at the headquarters of the SSS. Some journalists were also there to witness the release of both detainees.
“Instead of releasing both detainees to their lawyers and family members the SSS fired teargass and shot into the air. In the process, the lawyers, family members and friends of both detainees were physically attacked by masked security operatives.
“Some of the journalists were seriously injured. Having proved beyond any reasonable doubt that members of the defence team, family members and friends of the two detainees had reported in the headquarters of the SSS to receive them the story has now changed.
“The SSS has now said that “It is only appropriate that those who stood surety for Sowore present themselves and have him released to them.”
“From the latest statement it is crystal clear that the SSS has no scores to settle with Mr. Bakare. Hence, the SSS has decided not to invite his own sureties to collect him. It is hoped that the SSS will release him without any further delay.
“With respect to Mr. Sowore, we wish to state, without any fear of contradiction, that the SSS has apparently constituted itself into an appellate court over the Federal High Court. For the avoidance of doubt, no condition is attached to the order of court for the release of both detainees.
“Therefore, the SSS is aggravating the felony of contempt of court by asking sureties who had been verified by the trial court to report in its office for an illegal verification.
“In view of the reckless insinuations of the SSS, I am compelled to point out that my colleagues and I did not risk our lives for the purpose of substituting military dictatorship for civilian autocracy. It is pertinent to point out that suspects who were presumed innocent under the defunct military junta were not exposed to the crude intimidation that has become the lot of Sowore and Bakare.
“Even when five of us were charged with treasonable felony in May 1992 we were released after we had met the bail conditions. On that occasion, the SSS never asked our sureties to report after they had been verified by the trial court. I demand for nothing less for my clients under the current political dispensation which ought to be anchored on the rule of law.
“Finally, I confirm that I have an official relationship with the DG of SSS. But since the commencement of the case of Sowore and Bakare the DG has refused to pick my calls while I have since become a persona non grata in the office of the SSS.
“With respect to the baseless allegation that I am playing to the gallery by demanding for the release of my clients in line with the valid and subsisting order of a competent law court, I shall take appropriate action under the law. Meanwhile, the SSS should release our clients from illegal custody and should stop exposing the country to unwarranted ridicule.”