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Monday, 2 July, 2001, 19:16 GMT 20:16 UK
Nigeria opens Abiola death inquiry
Mashood Abiola
Abiola's family feel his death was suspicious
Nigeria's human rights commission has opened hearings into the death of Mashood Abiola - the man believed to have won the annulled presidential election of June 1993.

General Abubakar
General Abubakar is expected to give evidence
Proceedings were postponed until 19 July, however, to enable former military ruler General Abdusalami Abubakar to give evidence. Mr Abiola died in jail in July 1998 during the time of General Abubakar's rule.

Mr Abiola's death was put down to a heart attack at the time, but his family suspected foul play.

Mr Abiola was a key figure in Nigeria's democracy movement and his death, at a time when the country was taking steps towards re-establishing democracy, sparked riots.

Help needed

The Abiola family's lawyer, Femi Falana, had asked for General Abubakar to testify, and commission chairman Chukwudifu Oputa felt this would be helpful.

"Let him [General Abubakar] come and help us. We will try to get all the witnesses [in the case] present," Mr Oputa said.

Nigeria was thrown into political turmoil when the 1993 presidential elections were annulled.

Mr Abiola declared himself president, believing that he had actually won the elections. He was then arrested for treason by the military leader at the time, General Sani Abacha.

The human rights commission was set up by the Nigerian Government to investigate abuses under military rule.

The panel members are charged with establishing whether human rights abuses were part of "deliberate state policy or the policy of any of its organs, or institutions".

The panel has also been given responsibility for recommending how past injustices can be redressed, as well as suggesting ways to prevent future abuses.

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See also:

18 Dec 00 | Africa
Nigeria's weeping generals
28 Nov 00 | Africa
Abiola witness death threats
02 Dec 00 | Africa
Inside Nigeria's terror cells
21 Nov 00 | Africa
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