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State security agents detain Nigerian journalists

UPDATE: Nigerian journalists freed, but equipment still held (CPJ, 2 January 2013)

(MRA/IFEX) - 31 December 2012 - At about 4:00am on Monday, 24 December, Mr. Musa Mohamed Awwal and Mr. Aliyu Saleh, two journalists with the Hausa language newspaper published in Kaduna, Al-Mizan, were arrested and detained by heavily armed security operatives from the State Security Service (SSS) in Kaduna State.

The SSS officials, accompanied by armed soldiers all totalling about 40, carried out the pre-dawn arrests of the journalists in their homes in Kaduna and took them away to undisclosed locations.

Both journalists and members of their families were reportedly assaulted by the security operatives during the operation to arrest them.

Their wives and Mr. Awwal's son were also initially arrested and briefly detained before being released later that day.

At the home of Mr. Awwal, the editor of the newspaper, his wife was allegedly assaulted when she asked about the identities and authority of the security men who came to arrest her husband. Awwal's son, who suffers from sickle cell anaemia and was in the house at the time of the operation, was also allegedly assaulted before Mr. Awwal was taken away, along with both his wife and son.

The security operatives allegedly also took with them a laptop computer and eight cell phone handsets belonging to different members of his family.

At the residence of Mr. Saleh, a reporter with the newspaper, the security men reportedly manhandled his wife, who was arrested with him. They are also alleged to have taken away an unspecified number of cell phone handsets.

The security operatives reportedly did not identify themselves and did not specify the offences or crimes that the journalists were being accused of before they were arrested and taken away.

On the same day, another set of security operatives also visited the home of the editor-in-chief of Al-Mizan, Mr. Ibrahim Musa, who was not at home at the time of the visit.

His home was ransacked.

Following the visit by the security operatives, a laptop computer with an internet modem was allegedly found missing, and presumed to have been taken away by the security operatives.

The security agents did not produce or show anyone present a search warrant before or during the visit and the search of the premises. Mr. Musa has gone into hiding and remains in hiding to date.

Following the security operations, workers at Al-Mizan who did not know where their colleagues had been taken, went around the various police stations in Kaduna to look for them.

The police denied holding them or any knowledge of their whereabouts and sent signals around, seeking confirmation as to their whereabouts.

The State Security Service (SSS) in Kaduna State subsequently confirmed that the operation had been carried out by the SSS and that the two journalists were arrested by the SSS and that they had been transferred to the SSS headquarters in Abuja.

The journalists have not been granted access to anyone, including their family members, doctors, lawyers or any other representative.

The two journalists are believed to have been arrested and detained over a story they co-authored and which Al-Mizan published on Friday, 21 December, 2012, titled "Atrocities of JTF in Potiskum" in which they alleged that operatives of the Joint Task Force (JTF) had rounded up 86 youths in Potiskum, Yobe State, and that the detainees were being abused. The story was also posted up on Al-Mizan's website, www.almizan.info.

Al-Mizan was established in 1991 and is run by the Shiite and pro-Iranian Islamic Movement of Nigeria.
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