Nigerian court releases detained journalist on bail

A Nigerian court on Friday granted bail to a journalist accused of criminal trespass and stealing police documents, his employers said.

Samuel Ogundipe, a reporter with the independent online newspaper Premium Times, has been in custody since his arrest on Tuesday after reporting on a takeover of parliament last week by masked security agents.

He was secretly arraigned without his lawyers' knowledge in the capital of Abuja on Wednesday. The judge ordered him to appear on August 20 for another hearing.

But Premium Times reported that the reporter was brought back to the same court early on Friday and was granted bail.

The paper said Ogundipe's lawyer requested his release, which was granted by the judge.

Ogundipe was arrested with two colleagues who were later released after questioning.

His employers said he was held for publishing a report sent to Acting President Yemi Osinbajo by the inspector general of police, Ibrahim Idris, on events that took place at the National Assembly on August 7.

Hooded armed operatives of the State Security Service (SSS) blocked access to the Senate and House of Representatives, preventing lawmakers from entering.

The reason for the operation remains unclear. Independent sources speculate it was a show of force connected to a political crisis ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections next February.

Local and international rights bodies, including Amnesty International, had called for Ogundipe's release and for Nigeria to end a recent clampdown on journalists.

Jones Abiri, another Nigerian journalist, was detained for two years without trial over allegations he was linked to militants in the oil-rich Niger delta.

After an outcry he was finally arraigned in an Abuja court this week and released on bail.

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