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Families launch appeal fund to defend detained Boko Haram suspects

MAIDUGURI—As the federal government gets set to commence trial of 1,600 Boko Haram suspects, about 1,200 family members of some of the suspects  yesterday launched a fund raising exercise to back their campaign for justice for the suspects.

This file photo taken on January 14, 2016 shows members of the “Bring Back Our Girls” movement and mothers of the missing schoolgirls, holding a banner showing photographs of some of the missing, marching to press for the release of the schoolgirls kidnapped in 2014 from their school in Chibok by Islamist group Boko Haram, during a rally in Abuja.

The Nigerian government through the Federal Ministry of Justice said last week that the trial of the suspects being held in various detention facilities across Nigeria would begin on October 9 in Kainji, Niger State and Maiduguri, Borno State.

But the family members, who are mostly women, insist that some of the suspects who are being detained by the Nigerian military are innocent. The family members have formed a movement called KNIFAR to coordinate their quest to secure justice for them.

They lamented that they could not appear before the presidential panel set up to review alleged human rights abuses by soldiers.

They said they were sure of the innocence of their relatives and were demanding their immediate release by the military whom they said had failed to arraign them before the court since taking most of them into custody in 2015.

KNIFAR members said they submitted a petition to the Presidential Panel when it commenced sitting in Maiduguri recently but had not been invited to its public hearing before the panel ended its sitting.

The group said they complained to the panel that they had not been able to speak for their relatives in detention but were told they would only be heard if they could travel down to Abuja, adding that their relatives were victims of Boko Haram violence caught between the fighting forces of soldiers and Boko Haram before the soldiers arrested them as Boko Haram suspects.

The group, which comprised indigent women mostly living in IDP camps, said they had no resources to travel to Abuja and had thus decided to launch an appeal for fund from well-meaning Nigerians to help them get justice for their relatives.


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