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Arrested Nigerian journalist, Jones Abiri granted bail by court

Abiri denies charges of sending text messages to oil companies threatening to blow up their facilities

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Nigerian journalist, Jones Abiri granted bail by court

A Nigerian journalist facing terrorism, economic sabotage and fraud charges has been granted conditional bail, court officials said Tuesday — but has to stay in jail until he meets the conditions.

Judge Ijeoma Ojukwu granted a defence request for bail to Jones Abiri, editor and publisher of the Weekly Source newspaper, in a hearing Monday.

Related: Libyan journalists released by pro-Haftar forces

She set the date for the start of the trial on Friday.

Abiri denies charges of sending text messages to oil companies threatening to blow up their facilities. He says he has been targeted for his coverage of the neglect of his native Niger Delta by oil companies and the government.

Related: Journalists’ association condemns police threats in Somali

Judge Ojukwu ordered Abiri to pay ₦100 million and also to provide a guarantor who would have to be a landowner, a common proviso in Nigerian courts. Until then, he has to remain in custody, the judge added.

Related: Ugandan court prevents government from suspending journalists

Abiri was previously detained by intelligence officers for two years without trial over alleged links to armed rebel groups in the Niger Delta region.

He was freed last August following a campaign by rights organisations.

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North Africa Politics

Libya’s GNA suspect new military escalation by Haftar-led forces

Videos circulated on social media in recent days show columns of LNA military vehicles trucking towards Tripoli.

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Photo credit: AFP

Libya’s UN-recognised government said Saturday it feared forces led by strongman Khalifa Haftar were prepping a new “military escalation” in their months-long push to take Tripoli.

Deadly fighting has rocked the capital’s outskirts since Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army launched an offensive on April 4 to take the city from the Government of National Accord.

The GNA said on its Facebook page it was “concerned over reports, confirmed by the UN and the media, on preparations for a new military escalation”.

The United Nations mission in Libya said in a tweet Saturday that it was “doing its outmost with all local and foreign actors to avoid military escalation and to ensure protection of civilians”.

Videos circulated on social media in recent days, some by a pro-Haftar television channel, show columns of LNA military vehicles trucking towards the south of the capital. The footage could not be independently verified.

Haftar’s campaign to wrestle Tripoli from pro-GNA forces has left nearly 1,093 people dead, including 106 civilians, and over 5,750 wounded, according to the UN’s World Health Organization.

The fighting has also forced more than 100,000 people to flee their homes. 

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Campaign against corruption begins in Zambia

We can’t have few people that are getting rich and the majority are poor. – Laura Miti

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Campaign against corruption in government begins in Zambia

Hundreds of people wearing yellow T-shirts rallied on Saturday in Zambia’s capital Lusaka – to kick start a campaign against corruption in President Edgar Lungu’s government.

The protesters – led by prominent anti-graft activists Laura Miti and musician Pilato (also known as Chama Fumba) – picketed outside the parliament, singing anti-government songs and waving yellow cards.

“This is just the beginning of our yellow card campaigns,” Miti, who is the leader of a non-profit organisation Alliance for Community Action, told the jubilant crowd.

“We will not accept the country to be destroyed while we watch. 

“We can’t have few people that are getting rich and the majority are poor. This country is rich but the problem is how it is governed,”  she said.

She claimed that some ministers owned more than 40 houses each while most Zambians live in squalor. 

Demonstrators carried placards denouncing poor standards of education and plans to reintroduce deputy ministerial posts through a constitutional amendment.

“We are saying to (president) Lungu we are tired,” said Miti.

Both Miti and Pilato were arrested last year for picketing outside parliament over the procurement of 42 fire engines at a cost of $1 million each, seen as emblematic of the corruption fostered by Lungu.

During the protest on Saturday, Pilato warned: “if we refuse to defend Zambia today, there won’t be Zambia tomorrow”.

Lungu became president in 2015 after the death of President Michael Sata and was re-elected in 2016, but his administration has been dogged by accusations of graft.

In January 2018, foreign affairs minister Harry Kalaba resigned in protest, citing “swelling” corruption in government ranks “perpetrated by those who are expected to be the solution.”

The former minister for social services, Emerine Kabanshi, is due in court next month for corruption charges over allegations that led Britain to suspend aid to Zambia last year.

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Former South African President Zuma withdraws from graft inquiry

The ex-president was due to give the last of his evidence on Friday but had complained

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Former South African President Zuma withdraws from graft inquiry
Former South African president Jacob Zuma. (Photo by MIKE HUTCHINGS / POOL / AFP)

Former South African president Jacob Zuma on Friday withdrew from testifying to an inquiry into corruption during his rule, complaining of bias, before later agreeing to return at a future date.

In the corruption scandal popularly referred to as “state capture”, Zuma is alleged to have overseen mass looting of state assets during his nine-year tenure.

Zuma on Friday morning pulled out of the inquiry, with his legal team saying their client would no longer participate as he had been “treated as someone who was accused.”

But after behind-the-scenes discussions, deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, who is chairing the investigation, announced an agreement had been reached between parties.

“The former president will come back at another time that will be arranged,” Zondo announced. “The discussions have resulted in an agreement.”

Zuma said he was “happy” that a compromise had been reached.

READ: Zuma to testify at South Africa’s graft probe

“No one should have a wrong impression that the raising of the concerns was just done in order to disrupt the processes, these were genuine concerns,” he added.

The ex-president was due to give the last of his evidence on Friday but had complained that earlier questioning was effectively a court cross-examination.

Zuma had dismissed all accusations made against him by previous witnesses to the inquiry.

He replied to many questions at the inquiry by saying he did not remember or was unaware of meetings and conversations that other witnesses had mentioned.

Possible prosecutions –

On Monday, the first day of his testimony, Zuma gave a rambling address saying he was the victim of conspiracies and years of “character assassination”, and accusing foreign intelligence agencies and spies of working against him.

He also said he had received multiple death threats and attempts on his life.

Zuma, 77, was ousted by the ruling ANC party in 2018 and replaced by his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, who has vowed to clean up the government.

He was not legally summoned to attend the inquiry, but was invited to reply after being implicated in graft by several previous witnesses.

The inquiry is investigating a web of deals involving government officials, the wealthy Gupta business family and state-owned companies.

READ: Ex-South African President Jacob Zuma claims he has been vilified

The Indian-born Gupta brothers — Ajay, Atul and Rajesh — have left South Africa and are now based in Dubai.

One witness, former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene testified that Zuma pushed policies on nuclear power and aviation that were designed to benefit the Gupta family.

“Mr. Zuma and his legal team are in effect asking to be excused from the application of the rules,” the inquiry’s lead lawyer Paul Pretorius said.

“If the questions are detailed and if the questions are difficult… so be it.

“We are not only entitled, but obliged to ask those questions.”

Zuma was forced to set up the commission in January 2018, shortly before he left office, after failing in a legal battle to overturn the instructions of the country’s ethics ombudsman.

It has been holding hearings since last year and is due to complete a report next year that may lead to criminal prosecutions.

Zuma has also been charged with 16 counts of graft linked to a 1990’s arms deal made before he became president.

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