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1995: Nigeria hangs human rights activists
The writer and human rights activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa, has been executed in Nigeria despite worldwide pleas for clemency.

The country's military rulers ordered the execution of Mr Saro-Wiwa and eight other dissidents should go ahead at 0730 local time (0830 GMT).

They were taken in chains to a prison in the southern city of Port Harcourt and hanged.

The activists were condemned to death 10 days ago after being found guilty of involvement in four murders.

Mr Saro-Wiwa insisted they were framed because of their opposition to the oil industry in the Niger-Delta region of southern Nigeria.

At his trial Mr Saro-Wiwa said the case was designed to prevent members of his tribe, the Ogoni, from stopping pollution of their homeland and getting a fair share of oil profits.

Dozens of Ogonis have been imprisoned by the military regime led by General Sani Abacha who seized power two years ago.

'Judicial murder'

The government is fearful of their opposition to mining driving the companies away, especially the Anglo-Dutch group, Shell.

Shell is the largest operator in Nigeria and oil it extracts in the Niger-Delta region provides most of Nigeria's export earnings.

The deaths of Mr Saro-Wiwa and the other activists looks likely to lead to Nigeria's expulsion or suspension from the Commonwealth whose leaders are currently meeting in New Zealand.

After news of the executions became public, South African President Nelson Mandela said his delegation would recommend Nigeria's suspension until a democratic government was elected.

British Prime Minister John Major called the executions "judicial murder" and said he did not see how Nigeria could now remain in the Commonwealth.

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Ken Saro-Wiwa
Mr Saro-Wiwa insisted they were framed

Mandela: "SA delegation will recommend expulsion of Nigeria"


In Context
The following day Nigeria was suspended from the Commonwealth and the European Union imposed sanctions on the country.

Both the suspension and sanctions lasted until after the death of General Sani Abacha in 1998.

Shell's facilities in Ogoniland were sabotaged after the executions and the company was forced to abandon production there temporarily.

However, it continues to be the dominant oil company in Nigeria despite attacks on installations by members of the Ogoni and other tribes.

In September 2001 a court in New York granted relatives of Ken Saro-Wiwa and another of the executed activists, John Kpuinen, the right to sue Shell.

The suit alleges the company fabricated evidence to support murder charges against the two men.

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