Cultism: Counsel Insists On Innocence Of Clients

A defence counsel has said that his clients remain innocent until they are proved guilty in a case of alleged cultism and illegal possession of firearm against them.

Speaking in an interview after the hearing last Thursday, the defence counsel, Barrister Livingstone Woyike, said: “They are presumed innocent until proved guilty. It’s the duty of the prosecution to prove the alleged crime beyond all reasonable doubt”.

The two defendants Omebe Okoro and Hope Otto were arrested in 2019 for alleged cultism and illegal possession of firearm.

They are alleged to belong to a cult group which terrorized Abuloma Community, according to the police.

On Thursday, a police witness from the Anti-Cultism Unit, ASP Bright Gbarane, was led in evidence by state counsel, R.M. Okwujuruwu (Mrs) and testified that his duties included arrest, investigation and prosecution of offenders.

He said the two defendants were arrested in 2019 by vigilantes and were suspected to be cultists in company of other cultists.

He said while others escaped the two were arrested and handed over to Abuloma Police Station and later brought for investigation to the anti-cultism unit.

The witness said that the matter was assigned to him adding that the defendants had volunteered statement.

He said he carried out a search operation of their house and premises and recovered firearm.

On a statement which was tendered in court by the counsel and shown to the police witness and the defendants, the defendants denied that they made or signed the statement.

However, the investigating police officer said that he obtained the statement from them.

The defence counsel, however, did not object to the statement.

The state counsel tendered a search warrant as an exhibit which she had shown to the witness and the judge had admitted the statement and the search warrant in evidence.

The witness said he recovered a locally-made pistol and three 7mm live ammunition when he conducted search operation saying that he registered the firearm and had brought it to court.

The judge admitted the ammunition and firearm in evidence.

ASP Gbarane said that he saw in his findings that the defendants were members of a dreaded cult group which had terrorized Abuloma Community and that the first defendant was initiated in 2017 while the second was in 2016.

He said that he found that their leader was killed during one of the clashes in the area.

He also said that the two defendants operated with firearms.

A police investigation report was tendered by the state counsel which was not objected to by the defence and was later admitted in evidence.

The judge adjourned the case to 28 March for cross-examination and continuation of hearing.

The judge however ruled that the locally-made pistol and ammunition be returned to police for custody and be returned to court on the next adjourned date.


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