By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
ABUJA (Worthy News) - Rights activists have welcomed a decision by Nigerian authorities to release on bail a jailed journalist who publicly condemned the government's perceived lack of response to the massive killings of Christians.
A Federal High Court in Nigeria’s northern Kaduna state released Luka Binniyat, who spent 84 days in pre-trial detention, on January 27, trial observers said.
Binniyat pleaded not guilty to what his supporters view as trumped-up charges of “cyberstalking and aiding and abetting the offenses of cybercrime.”
He was also accused of “defaming Samuel Aruwan,” the Kaduna state commissioner for internal security, over his reports about the deadly violence against Christian communities.
Last year about 80 percent of the at least 5,898 Christians killed for their faith in Christ globally were murdered in Nigeria, according to research by advocacy group Open Doors.
Binniyat was reportedly freed on bail after securing about $2,400 in a local currency backed by two sureties with the same amount who reside in Kaduna and possess properties there.
Advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) welcomed the bail decision.
CSW Founded President Mervyn Thomas noted that Binniyat's release came after he was “enduring a lengthy and unwarranted period of pre-trial detention in a maximum-security prison.”
However, Christians cautioned that the trial was adjourned till 28 February and that if convicted, Binniyat could face up to three years in prison and a fine of some $17,000.
This was the second time Binniyat has been detained arbitrarily, according to sources familiar with the case.
In 2017 he was reportedly detained for nearly 100 days over an article based on information that was later found to be false, and for which he publicly apologized.
He also made “strenuous efforts” to retract it before publication, his supporters said.
“We urge the Kaduna state authorities to ensure the due process continues to be observed as his trial progresses,” Thomas stressed.
It was crucial “to prioritize the arrest and prosecution of genuine instigators and perpetrators of violence. Along with the protection of citizens regardless of creed or ethnicity,” he added.
Thomas said that CSW appeals to the international community “to maintain a close scrutiny on the situation of human rights crisis in Kaduna state.”
The killings of thousands of Christians and other attacks have been linked to Islamist groups ranging from Fulani herders to other terror organizations and criminals.
Thomas said the world should raise the reported ongoing religious rights violations and violence in areas like the restive Kaduna state with Nigeria’s government.