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U.S. Recalls Ambassador After Nigeria Executes Nine Activists

November 10, 1995

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The United States recalled its ambassador from Nigeria and slapped travel restrictions on the military regime and its supporters Friday to protest the executions of playwright Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other rights activists.

Ambassador Madeleine Albright also will seeking unspecified measures in the United Nations to punish the Nigerian government, the White House said. A Clinton administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the U.N. measures could target the African nation’s vital oil industry.

``The United States deplores the gravely flawed process by which Mr. Saro-Wiwa and his associates were convicted and executed,″ the White House said in a statement only hours after the executions.

The State Department characterized the executions _ carried out despite worldwide appeals for clemency _ as a ``gross violation of human rights.″

A formal protest was being delivered to Nigerian Ambassador Zubair Mahmud Kazaure. The State Department characterized the executions

The tough U.S. rebuke included a ban on the sale and repair of all military goods or services to Nigeria and travel restrictions against Nigerian officials visiting international agencies in the United States.

Under the measures announced Friday, Nigerian officials visiting the United Nations or international financial institutions based in the United States will be required to remain within 25 miles of those organizations.

The regime hanged Saro-Wiwa, 54, a one-time Nobel Peace Prize candidate, in defiance of international pleas for clemency. The environmental and human rights activist had said he was framed in the murders of four men during a May 1994 political rally becuase of his opposition to dictator Gen. Sani Abacha and to Nigeria’s oil industry.

The White House said Ambassador Walter C. Carrington was being recalled from Lagos ``for consultations.″

The visa ban extends restrictions on visas already imposed on senior military and government officials and their families. Under the new rules, visas are ruled out for all military officials and civilians who ``actively formulate, implement or benefit from the policies that impede Nigeria’s transition to democracy.″

The White House expressed condolences to the families of those executed and renewed its call for Nigeria’s leaders to speed the transition to democracy and release all political detainees ``immediately and unconditionally.″

``We again urge the Nigerian government to take bold, credible steps to restore Nigeria promptly to civilian democratic rule,″ the White House said. It added that Washington ``will keep additional measures under review.″

Earlier, Nigerian Ambassador Zubair Kazaure defended the government’s decision to carry out the executions as justified under Nigerian law.

Clemency for Saro-Wiwa and the others _ all convicted of murder _ was impossible, he said, because Nigeria’s ruling ``council has confirmed the sentences.″

About 30 protesters from Amnesty International and other groups milled outside the embassy as Kazaure spoke. They carried placards with such slogans as ``Don’t kill Ken″ and ``Shell drills, Abacha kills.″

Saro-Wiwa and his supporters contended he was framed for the killing of four people because of his campaign against oil drilling by the Shell Petroleum Development Co. of Nigeria in tribal areas of the 500,000 Ogoni people. The Ogonis say the drilling is destroying their land and water.

Brian Anderson, Shell Petroleum’s managing director, had issued a statement Thursday pleading with the government to commute the death sentences.

In his news conference, Kazaure said the widespread criticism of the trial in the United States was reported back to Lagos, but said the complaints were misdirected.

``We have a different background and different laws, and this is the way we deal these matters,″ he said. ``No country will allow anarchy.″

Kazaure said those condemned had a fair trial, with every opportunity to defend themselves.

``Four prominent leaders earlier sentenced to death by Saro-Wiwa were abducted and murdered in broad daylight,″ he said.

In a statement distributed to reporters, he accused Saro-Wiwa and his group of trying to disintegrate Nigeria and set up a separate state for the Ogonis.

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