Above: Gottheimer meets with Opeyemi Sowore, local officials, and community members in Glen Rock.
On Friday, December 20, 2019, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) was joined by Ope Sowore, the wife of Nigerian journalist Omoyele ‘Yele’ Sowore, in calling for an immediate resolution of Yele’s ongoing detention in Nigeria. Gottheimer has been working closely with the Sowore family and with the U.S. State Department since Yele was first detained to ensure he can be reunited with his wife and two young children in Haworth.
On Friday, Gottheimer joined U.S. Senators Robert Menendez (NJ), Charles Schumer (NY), Cory Booker (NJ), Chris Coons (CT), and U.S. Congressman Bill Pascrell (NJ-9) in sending a letter to the Nigerian Attorney General expressing concern about whether established legal procedure and the rule of law are being followed in the Sowore case. Gottheimer and Menendez sent a letter to the Nigerian Ambassador in November to address closing media and civic space in Nigeria.
“I want to recognize Ope Sowore’s tremendous courage and determination during this trying time. For months now, I have been working closely with the Sowore family, the Haworth community, the State Department, and my colleagues to advocate on Yele’s behalf. We are urging the Nigerian government to protect Yele’s safety, provides him with the due process he deserves, and ultimately permit him to return home as soon as possible. We will continue watching the situation in Nigeria, a democracy seeking closer ties with the U.S., to make sure the government respects basic human rights. I can think of no better Christmas gift for the Sowore family then welcoming Yele home,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5).
On August 3, 2019, Omoyele Sowore was arrested in Nigeria for exercising his fundamental right to free expression. The Nigerian Court twice ordered Sowore’s release after he met the terms of his bail, but the Nigerian Department of State Security (DSS) did not comply with these orders until December 5th. Sowore was rearrested the next day, while appearing in court for the beginning of his trial.
The letter sent this week by Gottheimer and other Members of Congress to the Nigerian Attorney General requested that immediate steps be taken to ensure the safety and security of Sowore while he is held in custody and to ensure he receives a legally sound and credible trial. An upcoming hearing is scheduled for Sowore on December 23, 2019.
In addition to this week’s letter, Gottheimer has agreed to sponsor Sowore as a prisoner of conscience with the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U.S. House of Representatives. The bipartisan Commission is charged with promoting, defending and advocating for international human rights.
Gottheimer was also joined at Friday’s meeting by Haworth Councilmembers Dina Siciliano, Jackie Guenego, and Heather Wasser.
The letter sent this week to the Nigerian Attorney General can be found HERE.