Nigerian court convicts 45 in Boko Haram mass trials
LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — A Nigerian court has convicted 45 Boko Haram members in the largest mass trial in the Islamic extremist group’s history.
The closed-door proceedings have raised the concerns of human rights groups about whether the trials of the 1,669 people will be fair.
These are the first results of the mass trials that began early this week at a military barracks in northern Nigeria. The judges are drafted from civil courts, while the barracks are being used for security reasons.
The 45 people were sentenced to between three and 31 years in prison, the country’s information minister said in a statement Friday. Another 468 suspects were released, but the court ordered that they undergo deradicalization programs.
The government has not said what exactly the hundreds of suspects are charged with.
Nigeria is trying to show it is making progress against the extremist group that has killed more than 20,000 people during its eight-year insurgency. Boko Haram has yet to comment publicly on the mass trials.
Nigeria has arrested thousands of suspected Boko Haram members in recent years, and military detention facilities are overcrowded. Human rights groups say most of those detained have been picked up at random and without reasonable suspicion, including women and children.
Former detainees have described malnutrition, mistreatment and deaths in the facilities.
Boko Haram’s attacks have spilled into neighboring countries and displaced more than 2.4 million people in the Lake Chad region, creating a vast humanitarian crisis. Some fighters have allied with the Islamic State group.
While Nigeria’s military has arrested many Boko Haram top fighters and last year declared the extremist group had been “crushed,” leader Abubakar Shekau remains elusive. The group in recent months has carried out a growing number of deadly suicide bombings and other attacks, many carried out by women or children.