Posted by News Express | 3 October 2014 | 3,675 times
It was a clash of defence lawyers and the Judge-Advocate as a general court-martial was inaugurated yesterday in Abuja to hear charges against 97 soldiers, including 16 officers, accused of mutiny, assault, cowardice and refusing to fight members of Boko Haram in the north eastern part of the country.
The latest trial comes two weeks after 12 soldiers were sentenced to death by firing squad for mutiny and attempted murder of their Commanding Officer in Maiduguri, Borno State.
After the President of the general court martial and other members of the panel took their oath of office, signalling the commencement of the trial, there was an argument between the defence lawyers and the Judge-Advocate of the court martial, Lieutenant-Colonel Ukpe Ukpe.
Counsel to the accused persons, Femi Falana and Godwin Anyamelechi, argued that having been listed as the Assistant Director of Legal Services to the Nigeria Army, Lieutenant-Colonel Ukpe cannot play the role of the Judge-Advocate since he may have given judicial advice in the case.
This position was opposed by the prosecuting counsel, Captain Ruth Agwai, with Lt Colonel Ukpe also defending his position as the Judge-Advocate. According to him, the law has stipulated the condition and criteria of a Judge-Advocate.
Nevertheless, Lt.-Colonel Ukpe eventually took his oath after the arguments, when no further objection was raised to his position as Judge-Advocate.
To kick-start the trial, the President of the Court Martial, Brigadier-General Musa Yusuf, listed the charges against the accused persons and gave the assurance that the trial would not only be accelerated but that he would ensure fair-hearing to all the accused soldiers and justice would be done at the end.
Trial of the accused persons has been fixed for October 15, 2014.
•Adapted from a Channels TV report. Photo shows the court martial about to begin sitting . . . yesterday in Abuja.
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