No fewer than 40 Twitter accounts which had earlier been suspended for promoting a campaign in favour of detained Venezuelan diplomat, Alex Saab have been released.
On Tuesday April 6, Nigerians woke up to reports that the Twitter accounts of about 40 social media influencers have been temporarily suspended.
Some of the influencers affected are Dr Pampam (@UnclePamilerin), Four Eye Edo Boy (@Alex_House of 308), Tife (@Tife_fabunmi) and Samuel Mbah (@mbahdeyforyou).
Others are Valhalla (@Valhalla_XO), Volqx (@volqx), MR AHMED (@UncleMohamz).
According to a report, each of the influencers allegedly collected over $2,000 each to coordinate the campaign to influence the release of Saab who was arrested and detained in Cape Verde.
The suspension of the accounts was in response to an investigation by BuzzFeed News and the Digital Africa Research Lab (DigiAfricaLab), that about that 1,500 accounts were allegedly involved in manipulating the #FreeAlexSaab hashtag.
However, within 24 – 48 hours after the suspension of the accounts, Twitter released them back.
The release is an indication that the actions of these influencers did not contravene any of Twitter’s guidelines because moments after the suspension, a company spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that investigations into the case are still ongoing.
The reactivation of the accounts and sudden shift in discussions regarding the case raises questions about a possible attempt to shift attention away from Cape Verde’s refusal to obey the ruling of the ECOWAS Court in the case.
Saab’s arrest, during a stop over on his way to Iran in June last year, was based on the request of the Donald Trump led United States government over allegations of money laundering, a move the Venezuelan government faulted with claims that the businessman is its special envoy on a humanitarian mission.
The Venezuelan government claimed that before his arrest, Saab had been on a mission to get food and medical supplies in Iran, stopping over in Cape Verde where he was arrested by security operatives.
Saab’s detention has attracted international attention over multiple allegations of external pressures. The legal tussle in the case has been prolonged for a long.
The clearest indication of Cape Verde’s authorities’ interest in the case is evident in its failure to obey the ruling of the Court of Justice of the Economic Community Court of West African States.
On March 15, the Court ruled that Saab’s arrest was illegal due to the absence of an Interpol Red Notice or arrest warrant when he was detained.
The ECOWAS court also ordered the immediate termination of the extradition process and the payment of a sum of $200,000 in compensation to Saab by the Cape Verde government.
While explaining the basis for its decision not to obey the ruling, the Cape Verde government argued that the supremacy of the jurisprudence of the ECOWAS Court of Justice over its domestic legal order is not acceptable.
However, the argument by the Cape Verde government has been described as “faulty” because even though the Prime Minister of Cape Verde, Jose Maria Perira Neves did not sign the Supplementary Protocol of Ecowas Court in January 2005, the country is still bound by the provisions of the instrument on grounds of estoppel under international
Since Cape Verde recognised the jurisdiction of the Court by fully participating in the process by the presence and conduct of its legal representative, Dr. Henrique Borges and voluntarily exercised its right to participate in the process, filed submissions and was heard by the Court, it was bound by the judgement.
Despite machinations to the contrary, Cape Verde is also bound to the Additional Protocol A/SP1/01/05 amending Protocol A/P1/7/91 in regard to the Court of Justice of the Community (“the Protocol”). Under the provisions of Paragraph 2 of Article 11 of the
The Protocol becomes binding on all of the Member States of the ECOWAS if 9 Member States sign it. In the present case, 14 out of 15 Member States signed the Protocol with the only one not signing being the Republic of Cape Verde because its Prime Minister at the time had to return home to deal with an emergency.
However, the country neither at the time, nor at any time in the eleven years since the
Protocol was signed has Cape Verde ever raised any concern about the binding nature
of Protocol upon it.
The country even actively participated in the discussions leading up to the drafting and ratification of the Protocol.
Currently, former Minister of Justice of Cape Verde, the Honorable Justice Januária
Tavares Silva Moreira Costa (“Justice Costa”) was one of the 3 members of the panel
of the Court which deliberated and ruled on the matter between Cabo Verde and Mr.
Alex Saab and even had the honor of reading the final judgement on 15 March 2021.
Before Justice Costa, Justice Benfeito Mosso Ramos (“Justice Ramos”) was a panellist
and Vice-president of the Court 2009 to 2014. Justice Ramos also served as Advisory Judge of the Cabo Verdean Supreme Court of Justice.
Justice Ramos is a member of the Judicial Council of the Court – a department which is responsible for the recruitment and discipline of the judges of the Court – and before him Justice Fatima Coronel had fulfilled the same role.
Similarly, the continued detention of Saab over money laundering allegations sits on no basis following the withdrawal of the three-year long money laundering probe by Switzerland.
A spokesman for Geneva’s prosecutor who announced said the probe into Saab over suspected money laundering via Swiss offshore accounts was shut over lack of evidence.
According to the government Office tasked with evaluating suspicious funds, the investigation into Saab was sparked by several banks lodging reports with MROS.
Prosecutors said the now-shuttered Genevan investigation focused on a single vehicle tied to Saab, noting that the evidence from this was insufficient to bring formal charges against him.
The withdrawal of the money laundering probe against Saab strengthened the position of the ECOWAS Court that there was no red notice in place during the time of his arrest.
Nevertheless, Cape Verde authorities have continued to push for his extradition.
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