Thursday, October 11, 2007

Nigeria holds US woman

Nigeria holds US woman
09/10/2007 23:03 - (SA)

Lagos - Authorities are holding a longtime American resident in Nigeria without bail on alleged violations of state security laws, with prosecutors saying the woman helped two filmmakers take images of petroleum installations in the lawless southern oil region.
Judith Asuni, an American charity worker who has lived in Nigeria for more than three decades, was arrested on September 26 with two German filmmakers and a Nigerian after the Germans filmed oil installations in the Niger Delta, court papers showed.
The two Germans, Alexander Orpitz and Andy Lehman, were granted bail on Friday. But Asuni, who's believed to be in her 60s, and the Nigerian, Danjuma Saidu, have been kept in detention and were again denied bail by a judge in Abuja on Monday.
Face long jail sentences
The defendants, who have pleaded innocent to the charges, face at least seven years in prison if convicted.
Prosecutor Saliu Aliu said in court on Monday that he had documents showing Asuni, who is married to a Nigerian, was a security risk, but the contents weren't released. Aliu refused comment on the documents, citing security regulations, and said it was the court's decision to grant only the Germans bail.
The US Embassy has expressed concern at the detention of Asuni, who runs a non-governmental organisation that seeks to promote peace in Niger Delta, where competition for oil riches has sparked violence.
"Doctor Asuni is an aid worker and longtime resident of Nigeria who is recognised for her efforts to promote understanding, conflict management, transparency, and sustainable development in the Niger Delta," the embassy said in a recent statement.
Nigeria's southern Niger Delta region has suffered serious security problems as militants stepped up activities in recent years, sparking a wave of hostage takings and battles between gunmen and security forces.
The new government of President Umaru Yar'Adua has stepped up efforts to calm the region and violence has waned since he took power May 29, but Nigeria has long been sensitive to the portrayal of the region by international media.
No filming allowed in military areas
While reporting in the Niger Delta region isn't expressly illegal, journalists are officially prohibited from filming in military or other prohibited areas.
Nigeria otherwise has a relatively free press, with more than a dozen mass dailies and several private television and radio stations routinely unearthing official corruption and human rights abuses by security forces.

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