PEN Appeal: Jonathan Elendu and Emmanuel Emeka Asiwe
November 5, 2008
Vice President Goodluck Jonathan
Office of the Vice President
Fax: +234 9 234 1773 / +234 9 314 8793
On behalf of the 3,300 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to welcome the release of U.S.-based Internet writer Jonathan Elendu, however we are seriously concerned over the detention of Emmanuel Emeka Asiwe, also a U.S.-based Internet writer.
According to our information, on October 29, 2008, Jonathan Elendu, a U.S.-based news blogger for Elendureports.com, was provisionally released without charge. He had been detained incommunicado since his arrest by the State Security Service (SSS) on his arrival in Abuja on October 17. Reportedly, Elendu was initially investigated for “money laundering” and later accused of “sedition.” He was questioned for five days about his alleged links to another web site, Saharareporters.com, as well as his sources and funding, his opinion on the Nigerian president, and articles he had written on president’s health. Elendu only gained access to his lawyer ten days after his arrest, and reports suggest he was ill-treated in detention and denied medical assistance. His travel documents remain confiscated, which means he is unable to return to the U.S.
Emmanuel Emeka Asiwe, editor of HuhuOnline, is being held incommunicado without charge in Abuja and has reportedly been questioned about “matters of national security.” According to the SSS, Asiwe was taken into custody at Lagos airport on October 31 after his arrival from the United States, but Asiwe’s lawyer says the arrest in fact took place on October 28, 2008. Both detentions have been in contravention of Nigerian law, which stipulates that anyone arrested must be charged in court within 48 hours. There are fears that these actions are part of a government crackdown on diaspora-run Nigerian political web sites since the publication of controversial photos of President Umaru Yar’Adua’s son.
PEN American Center believes Emmanuel Emeka Asiwe, like Jonathan Elendu, has been detained for his critical reporting on Nigeria in violation of his right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Nigeria is a signatory. We therefore respectfully call for his immediate and unconditional release, and for Jonathan Elendu’s release to be made unconditional and his travel documents returned to him immediately.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs
Cc: His Excellency Brig. Gen. Oluwole Rotimi
Embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the U.S.
3519 International Court, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 362-6552
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