SAHARA Reporters publisher and former presidential candidate Omoyele Sowore has been nominated to receive the Prisoner of Conscience honour from the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the United States House of Representatives.
Sowore, 47, who has just been released after a concerted international campaign that involved four US senators writing to the Nigerian government, lives in the US, from where he publishes Sahara Reporters. He had been arrested on August 3 while planning to organise a series of nationwide protests across Nigeria and was detained for 125 days before initially being released.
However, despite being released on December 5, Mr Sowore was re-arrested the following day by the men of the Nigerian Department of State Security (DSS), who stormed a courtroom, forcing the judge to flee. This blatant defiance of a court order led to a concerted international campaign to get Mr Sowore released, which President Muhammadu Buhari being pressurised to respect the rule of law.
This week, the government relented with Nigeria’s justice minister Abubakar Malami instructing the DSS to release Mr Sowore alongside former national security adviser Sambo Dasuki, another prisoner of conscience. Following the release, US lawmaker, Josh Gottheimer, sponsored Mr Sowore’s nomination for the prestigious recognition.
Congressman Gottheimer said: “We are urging the Nigerian Government to protect Yele’s safety, provide him with the due process he deserves and ultimately permit him to return home as soon as possible. We will continue watching the situation in Nigeria, a democracy seeking closer ties with the United States, to make sure the government respects basic human rights.
“For months now, I have been working closely with the Sowore family, the Haworth community, the State Department and my colleagues, to advocate on Yele’s behalf.” The bipartisan commission is charged with promoting, defending and advocating for international human rights.
Among other things, Mr Sowore is being accused of insulting President Muhammadu Buhari and planning to bring down his regime. He has spent over four months in detention despite two court orders directing his release on bail during that period.