- Title: NIGERIA: Nigeria drops arms smuggling charges against eight Russian sailors
- Date: 18th June 2013
- Summary: LAGOS, NIGERIA (JUNE 18, 2013) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF HIGH COURT WITH STATUE OF JUSTICE IN FRONT OF IT STATUE OF JUSTICE SIGN READING: "FEDERAL HIGH COURT" VARIOUS OF RUSSIAN SAILORS ARRIVING AT COURT VARIOUS OF LAWYERS DISCUSSING RUSSIAN SAILORS WALKING INTO COURT ROOM SIGN ON DOOR READING: "PLEASE USE NEXT DOOR" RUSSIAN SAILORS WALKING OUT OF COURT ROOM VARIOUS OF RUSSIAN SAILORS STANDING/ SIGN READING: "PLEASE DO NOT SOUND HORN BY ORDER" VARIOUS OF RUSSIAN SAILORS STANDING IN FRONT OF COURT AND TALKING (SOUNDBITE) (English) ABUBAKAR ONEGBU, LAWYER TO THE DEFENSE, SAYING: "The prosecution in their wisdom decided to drop the name of about eight accused persons on the ground that they are not supposed to be charged and they are bringing a new charge, they just submitted a new charge. There are some issues relating to whether or not the ship should be discharged, so on that ground the matter was adjourned for Friday (June 21) to enable us look at the new charge." VARIOUS OF RUSSIAN SAILORS IN FRONT OF COURT
- Embargoed: 3rd July 2013 13:00
- Location: Nigeria
- Country: Nigeria
- Topics: International Relations,People
- Reuters ID: LVA2MMJQOFATUGFD3Q88UUBFY7LZ
- Story Text: A Nigerian court has dropped the charges against eight of the fifteen Russian sailors charged with illegally bringing weapons into Nigeria in a ruling on Tuesday.
Nigerian authorities dropped charges on Tuesday (June 18) against eight Russian sailors suspected of trafficking arms, their lawyer said, but another seven will face trial.
The fifteen Russian sailors were charged with illegally bringing weapons into Nigeria last year, after Nigerian authorities intercepted a ship on October 23, saying they had found several guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition.
The court case has raised tensions between Nigeria and Russia, whose Foreign Ministry has spoken out against the charges.
Russian media have reported assurances from Nigeria that the sailors would be allowed to return home.
Nigeria has not commented on this alleged promise.
Their defense lawyer Abubakar Onegbu told reporters outside the court that the charges had been dropped because they had not been on the ship when it was detained, but had arrived by air to carry out a crew change.
"The prosecution in their wisdom decided to drop the name of about eight accused persons on the ground that they are not supposed to be charged and they are bringing a new charge, they just submitted a new charge. There are some issues relating to whether or not the ship should be discharged so on that ground the matter was adjourned for Friday (June 21) to enable us look at the new charge," Onegbu said.
The prosecuting counsel was unavailable for comment.
Justice James Soho adjourned the trial of the others until Friday (June 18). They are free on bail.
Arms smuggling to and through Nigeria is rife. Demand for weapons is high because of an Islamist rebellion in the north, armed robbery and kidnapping by gangs in the south and oil theft and piracy in the southeast.
The country is also sometimes used as a conduit for shipping arms to other conflict-ridden parts of West Africa.
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