Human rights group, Amnesty International (AI), has demanded the immediate release of over 100 women detained after a protest in Imo State, on August 18.
The women were arrested by security operatives during the protest, while demanding the ‘release’ of Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
They were arraigned at a magistrate court in the state, following allegations of treason and unlawful assembly, among other offences.
The magistrate however ordered their detention till September.
The court said it lacked jurisdiction to entertain the charges against the women and would need further directives from the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami.
Various campaigns subsequently began on Twitter, Thursday to demand the release of the women with Hashtags such as: #ProtestNotTreason, #FreeOwere112 and #FreeIPOBWomen, among others.
The campaigns attracted the attention of AI which indicated its commencement of investigation into the arrest on Thursday.
In a statement Friday, AI’s director, Osai Ojigbo, described the arrest as shocking and ”a blatant abuse of the rights of the detained peaceful protesters”.
“The arrest and mistreatment of 114 pro-Biafra women protestors on 17 August in Owerri Imo state is unacceptable and a shocking violation of their rights. The Nigerian authorities must release the women unconditionally and investigate reported cases of assault and other forms of ill-treatment in the course of the arrests.
“Hastily charging the women with treasonable felony, conspiracy to commit felony, and terrorism is an unacceptable use of the judicial process, which is designed to strip them of their right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.
“So far, there is no evidence to indicate that the protesting women had committed any acts that would justify their arrest or the criminal charges. The use of tear gas by the police to disperse the women was also an unnecessary and disproportionate act.
“We call on authorities to investigate the reckless handling of the protests by the police and hold the perpetrators to account. It is the duty of the Nigerian government to protect the rights of citizens to peaceful protest.”
IPOB, a secessionist group led by Mr Kanu is demanding for a referendum that would grant it an independent state of Biafra. The federal government has rejected its numerous appeals, leading to several confrontations between it and security operatives. The government has also controversially declared IPOB a terror group.
Mr Kanu is also wanted by the Nigerian government for alleged treason. He has not been seen in public since September 2017 when the army raided his residence in Abia state.
The army denies knowing his whereabouts.