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By NBF News
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There could be no better Christmas gift than the one dished out to the four accused persons standing trial over the murder of the Deputy National Chairman of the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), Chief Harry Marshal by Justice Ishaq Bello of an Abuja High Court.

The accused persons were discharged and acquitted after seven years in prison custody for lack of substantial evidence against them.

Marshal, an ANPP leader from Rivers State was murdered at his 28 Karaye Close, Garki II, Abuja residence on March 5, 2003.

The accused persons who regained their freedom on Christmas eve are; Sunday Ofuoku, Musa Babatunde, Friday Amaize and Stephen Imodu. The trial judge, Justice Bello held that the prosecution failed to link the accused persons with the murder as there was nothing before the court to convict them.

'There is a great need for the court to tread cautiously with circumstantial evidence brought by the prosecution because as the saying goes, it is better for a guilty person to go unpunished than for the innocent to be wrongly punished.

He said: 'The confessional statements of the accused have failed the acid test and not enough to convict the accused persons. Incidentally, the police who are the accuser are at the same time witnesses and prosecutors.  There is no doubt about the death of Harry Marshal but I cannot make definite statements that the four people standing trial killed him as there is no substantial evidence before me linking them to the crime.'

The judge said 'the identity of the killers was not proved by the prosecutors. The person the prosecutor pointed at was not arraigned or called as witness and the court cannot speculate as to whether the accused persons were actual perpetrators of the crime. Accordingly, all the accused are hereby discharged and acquitted.'

The judge however sentenced the third accused person (Stephen Imodu) to five years imprisonment for illegal possession of firearms but he too was set free as the judge said his terms would begin to run from the day he was arrested and detained.

The four accused persons had in October, 2010 told the court that their confessional statements were extracted by the police through torture in a desperate bid to obtain damning evidence linking them with the murder of the politician.

Friday Amaize had stated that he was arrested on April 4, 2003 in Edo State and brought to Abuja after he was mentioned by one Felix Anegbe as the person that harboured the suspected killers in his guest house at Apo, Abuja.

He said the police shot him with a pistol while his wife was also arrested and tortured which resulted in her miscarriage and death a week after her release all in a bid to extract confessional statement from him.

'After I was shot, they dragged me in a pool of blood to a room where, unknown to me, my wife, sister and brother were also being held.

The accused person also narrated how his wife was 'hung on table, her arms stretched the way they dry fish' all in a bid to make him confess to a crime he never committed.

He said a N20 million cheque purportedly made out to them as payment for the assassination was issued to them by the ex-IGP for the purpose of a press briefing.

He wondered why both the said cheque and the s0-called Felix Anegbe were not tendered or arraigned before the court.