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Detained newspaper bureau chief Akin Orimolade released; criminal defamation charge dropped

(MRA/IFEX) - On 24 March 2009, Akin Orimolade, the Abuja bureau chief of "National Life" newspaper, regained his freedom after one week of detention, when a Magistrate's Court sitting in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa state capital, rescinded a warrant of arrest issued for him and two others over a publication involving Governor Timipre Sylva of Bayelsa state.

After two failed attempts to hear the matter previously, following Orimolade's incarceration after being abducted from Abuja, the trial magistrate, Mr. Tariebi Tanus, set him free, saying his action was based on the application of the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Afini Egbegi, to withdraw the charges of alleged "criminal defamation" filed against Orimolade and two other journalists.

The charges were filed against Orimolade, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper, Louis Odion, and managing editor Waheed Odusile at the instigation of Governor Sylva, who claimed that the publication was injurious to his reputation. Following the filing of the charges, the magistrate issued a warrant for their arrest and Orimolade was thereafter abducted after being lured under the pretext that he was being offered an advert for placement in his newspaper.

When the matter came up for hearing, the prosecutor told the court that he had the instructions of his client to unconditionally withdraw the matter. Responding, Mr. Femi Falana, lead counsel to the journalist, said he had no objection to the withdrawal as the development would lead to a friendly relationship between the accused and the complainant.

Relying on Section 70 of the Criminal Procedures Laws of Bayelsa State 2006, Mr. Tanus rescinded the warrant he had earlier issued and discharged all accused persons. He said there was no need to take into account the journalists' plea against the charges since the governor had decided to withdraw the matter.

Updates the Orimolade case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/101753

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