Menendez, Sowore Family Call for Immediate Release of NJ Journalist being Detained in Nigeria

Menendez, Sowore Family Call for Immediate Release of NJ Journalist being Detained in Nigeria

  

NEWARK, N.J. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today stood with the family of Omoyele Sowore, a prominent Nigerian-American journalist and activist and a New Jersey resident who was arbitrarily re-arrested yesterday by Nigerian authorities hours after the Senator helped secure his release.

“We are here to call upon the government of Nigeria to immediately release Mr. Sowore.  New Jersey is watching. The United States is watching. The world is watching,” Sen. Menendez said.  “I fear that the blatant harassment of Mr. Sowore, an activist and journalist whose only crime appears to be exercising his right to free expression is becoming symptomatic of increasingly closing political and civic space in Nigeria…This is unacceptable in a country that calls itself a democracy.”  

Sen. Menendez, held a brief press conference this afternoon with Mr. Sowore’s wife, Opeyemi, at his Newark office.  He has been involved in securing Mr. Sowore’s release since his family in New Jersey reached out to his office for assistance.  

“I am truly afraid for his life and, at this point, I believe the only way to bring him home is with the help of the United States,” said Opeyemi Sowore.  “I can’t say how grateful I am to not be at this alone—sitting in my room this morning at 4 a.m., I truly felt helpless—but knowing that Senator Menendez is here supporting me and he’s helping to engage the U.S. government gives me hope that my husband will be home soon.”     

Amnesty International declared Sowore a prisoner of conscious on November 20, 2019.  Mr. Sowore was first arrested in August and, despite two court orders for his release, Nigerian security services refused to release him until yesterday.  Hours later, he was re-arrested in a courtroom during a troubling scene that was captured on video

“I am truly shaken to my core at what I witnessed this morning,” Mrs. Sowore said.  “My husband was strangled and forcefully removed from the courtroom.  The judge had to run and hide for her own safety.  How do I tell my children, who, after 125 days, have for the very first time spoken to their dad and seen his face [over Facetime after he was initially released], that he is again in detention and may not be coming home for Christmas?”

Earlier today, the senator issued a statement following Mr. Sowore’s re-apprehension, expressing outrage over his “blatant harassment.”  He announced that he will be reengaging the State Department and the U.S. Ambassador in Nigeria on the Sowore family’s behalf, and called for a re-assessing of the U.S.-Nigeria relationship.  

Last month, Sen. Menendez and Congressman Josh Gottheimer (N.J.-05) sent a private letter to the Head of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria to press the Nigerians to free people working in the civil and media space. The letter specifically cited Omoyele Sowore’s case.  A copy of the letter can be found HERE.

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