Omoyele Sowore’s family and friends are hoping the Haworth resident will come back to New Jersey soon.
The journalist is standing trial beginning Wednesday in his home country of Nigeria on charges that followed his Aug. 3 arrest while he was organizing a peaceful pro-democracy protest.
He has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which include organizing a protest, insulting Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and transferring U.S. money to a Nigerian account.
Sowore is the founder of Sahara Reporters, a pro-democracy, anti-corruption online news service that has been critical of the Nigerian government.
Since his August arrest, he has been held in a prison in Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos.
The requirements of his bail, set at $829,000, prevent Sowore from talking to the press.
During his time in prison, his wife, Opeyemi, and their two children have received support from their Haworth neighbors, who helped organize an event on Oct. 28 near Borough Hall calling for his safe release and return to the U.S.
Sowore told NorthJersey.com and the USA TODAY NETWORK New Jersey that she was “truly humbled by the outpouring of support and prayers from my community. The Tie a Yele Ribbon gathering last week brought such comfort and strength to our family.”
She said their father’s imprisonment and trial has been “very hard” on their children.
“They miss their father dearly. We continue to pray for his safe return home to us in New Jersey,” Sowore said.
Sowore said her husband is being represented in court by Femi Falana, a human rights attorney and activist, and the legal team for him will update her about the trial. A judge in Nigeria’s Federal High Court called for an expedited trial that could end as soon as Friday.
Omoyele Sowore’s family and supporters have also called upon their congressional representatives to help get the 48-year-old journalist back to New Jersey.
Rep. Josh Gottheimer, who represents Sowore’s district in Congress, said, “We’ve continued to be in close touch with the State Department and with Mr. Sowore’s family as this has developed.”
Expressing support for Sowore have been organizations including Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa.
California Rep. Karen Bass said in a statement, “I stand with the human rights and international community in declaring that the continued detainment of Mr. Omoyele Sowore is a flagrant violation of his human rights.”
Ricardo Kaulessar is a local reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.