Biafra: Court Rejects Application for Nnamdi Kanu Trial to be Held in Secret

Pro-Biafra supporters carry a poster of Nnamdi Kanu at a protest in Aba, Nigeria.
Pro-Biafra supporters hold a poster of Nnamdi Kanu at a protest in Aba, Nigeria, November 18, 2015. Kanu's trial will be held in public, a Nigerian court ruled on Tuesday. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images

A Nigerian court has rejected an application by the country's intelligence agency for the trial of Biafran activist Nnamdi Kanu to be held in secret.

Kanu, 48, is the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) group, which campaigns for the independence of a region in southeast Nigeria. He appeared in the Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday to face six charges of treasonable felony, along with two accomplices. Kanu denies all the charges against him. Treason carries a possible sentence of life imprisonment in Nigeria, according to section 41 of Nigeria's Criminal Code Act 1990.

The U.K.-based activist, also the director of underground station Radio Biafra, was arrested by members of Nigerian State Security Service (DSS) in Lagos in October 2015 and held in their custody until January. On January 20, the court ordered that Kanu be transferred from DSS custody to Kuje Prison in Abuja. He was later denied bail on the grounds that he was apparently a threat to national security.

Justice John Tsoho rejected an appeal by the prosecuting counsel, Mohammed Diri, for the trial to be held in secret and judged that it should be open to the public, according to an AFP reporter attending the trial:

#Kanu judge says that the public should be allowed to attend the trial, but that a max capacity will be established

— Stephanie Findlay (@SJFindlay) February 9, 2016

Tsoho also adjourned the trial until February 19.

Kanu struck a defiant tone entering the Abuja court on Tuesday. The Biafran activist initially refused to leave the prison van that delivered him to the court and then refused to remove his handcuffs upon entering the court until his defense counsel convinced him otherwise, according to Nigerian newspaper Vanguard.

Ahead of the trial, Barrister Ifeanyi Ejiofor, a member of Kanu's defense team, told Newsweek that the charges of treasonable felony against his client were "bogus and empty." Kanu was originally arrested on charges of criminal conspiracy but was granted conditional bail in October 2015. The DSS, however, obtained an order in November to hold Kanu for 90 days for the purposes of investigating him for terrorism. The Federal High Court in Abuja struck out the order on December 17 and ordered Kanu to be granted unconditional bail, but Nigerian authorities filed new charges of treasonable felony less than 24 hours later.