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Attack on Free Speech: Court Releases 6 Students Detained Over Facebook Post Since February

Six students and a lecturer of the Madonna University, Okija, Anambra State, who have been in detention since February, have regained their freedom.

They were granted bail on Wednesday by the Federal High Court 2 sitting in Awka and presided over by Justice Babatunde Quadri.

Their arrest and detention followed a petition by the management of the university to the Inspector-General of Police that they tarnished the reputation of the institution on the Internet.

Following the development, security operatives picked the students and lecturer,  including those participating in the National Youth Service Corps scheme, took them to the Okija campus of the university from where they were first detained in a police cell and later sent to the Awka Prison.

When one of the defence counsel, Mr C. O. Igwe, applied for the defendants to be granted bail during Wednesday’s proceedings, the prosecution counsel, Mr. J. N. Oboh did not object.

“Let them be allowed to go home, but they should sign an undertaking to be of good behaviour,” Oboh insisted.

Justice Quadri gave the lawyers to the defendants two months from Wednesday to perfect their bail conditions in view of the fact that the courts would be on vacation from next week.

The spokesperson for the parents of the students, Mr Christopher Onyejekwe, commended the parties that ensured the release of the defendants, regretting that they had suffered inhuman treatment because they chose to study at the Madonna University.

He said it was improper for the management of the university to involve the police in a matter that could have been resolved internally, adding that the careers of the students had almost been ruined.

In an emotion-laden voice, Onyekwere stated, “I thank God that the judge has finally granted them bail. But I am not really happy about the intimidation of our children by the management of Madonna University.

“That institution is a Catholic university and those who run it should behave as Catholics. That university is smearing the image of the Catholic Church and this should not be allowed.

“We are grateful to Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State and the Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, who intervened in the matter. We are also grateful to the National Association of Nigerian Students for its solidarity.

“If the management of Madonna University does not change, we will ensure that our children are withdrawn from the institution at the end of the current academic session.”

He added that many parents had become apprehensive about the safety of their children and had expressed their readiness to withdraw them from the school.

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