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Nearly 100 soldiers on trial at Nigeria court martial

02 October 2014, 20:30

Abuja - Nearly 100 soldiers tasked with fighting Boko Haram militants in Nigeria's far northeast appeared at a military court martial on Thursday, facing a range of charges including mutiny.

The hearing comes just weeks after a tribunal sentenced 12 soldiers to death following their conviction for shooting at their commanding officer in the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, in May.

Court martial president Brigadier General Musa Yusuf did not immediately give details about what the charges related to in the latest trial.

But he told the court: "From the record made available by the prosecution, a total of 97 accused persons are listed for trial by this court martial for various offences.

"The offences for the purpose of this trial could be conveniently grouped into mutiny, assault, absence without official leave, house-breaking, conduct prejudicial to good order and service discipline, offences relating to service property among others."

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The trial would be "guided throughout by the principles of fair hearing and justice", he added.

Sixteen commissioned officers, five lieutenant-colonels, one major, four captains, five lieutenants and one second lieutenant, were among the accused.

They are expected to be formally arraigned and enter pleas at a further hearing on October 15.

Nigeria's military has been under pressure to claw back territory seized by the militants in the northeast states of Yobe, Borno and Adamawa, which has led to fears of a loss of government control.

The militants in August declared one captured Borno town part of an Islamic caliphate, while the Roman Catholic bishop of Maiduguri said the Islamists controlled at least 25 towns in the three states.

There have been reports that Nigerian soldiers have refused to deploy for operations and even fled before and during Boko Haram attacks.

Many have complained that they are not adequately equipped to do the job.

Nigeria's military have repeatedly rejected the claims and maintain they are reversing Boko Haram gains.

The chief of defence staff has not yet approved the death sentences on the 12 convicted last month.

Should he do so, they have the right to appeal to the Supreme Court as well as a final plea for clemency to the president.



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