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U.S. Recalls Ambassador After Nigeria Executes Nine Activists

November 11, 1995

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

Ambassador Madeleine Albright also will seek 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,″ White House press secretary Mike McCurry said in a statement only hours after the death sentences were carried out despite worldwide protests.

Calling Saro-Wiwa a human rights champion, a distinguished writer and ``a world leader in the struggle to preserve the environment,″ McCurry said the hangings ``demonstrate to the world the Abacha regime’s flaunting of even the most basic international norms and universal standards of human rights.″

A formal protest was being delivered to Nigerian Ambassador Zubair Mahmud Kazaure.

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 because of his opposition to dictator Gen. Sani Abacha and to Nigeria’s oil industry.

The tough U.S. rebuke included a ban on the sale and repair of all military goods or services to Nigeria and restricted Nigerian officials visiting the United Nations or international financial institutions based in the United States to within 25 miles of those organizations.

The visa ban extends restrictions 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 said Ambassador Walter C. Carrington was being recalled from Lagos ``for consultations.″

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 statement said.

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

Clemency for Saro-Wiwa and the others 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.″

Brian Anderson, Shell Petroleum’s managing director, had pleaded with the Nigeria to commute the death sentences.

At his news conference, Kazaure said the widespread criticism of the trial in the United States were 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.

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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