From Pamela Eboh, Awka
Two remaining suspects standing trial for alleged involvement in the massacre of 13 worshippers at St Philip Catholic Church, Ozubulu, Ejwusigo local Government Area of Anambra State on August 6, 2017 has been discharged by an Awka High court.
Justice Fidelis Aniukwu in his three hours ruling said that the prosecution counsel was unable to prove beyond reasonable doubt the allegations levelled against the two defendants, Chinedu Akpunonu and Onyebuchi Mbanefo.
Recall that the Judge had in December 2018 discharged two out of the four persons arraigned before a high court in November 2017.
Justice Aniukwu argued that the prosecution witnesses failed to provide any evidence to prove that the defendants were the perpetrators of the crime.
In his reaction, the defence counsel, Mr. Festus Kayemo SAN, described the judgement as a landmark in view of the accelerated hearing by the presiding Judge.
Kayemo who was represented in court by another counsel, Mr Samuel Echeakputa said he is not ruling out appeal of the judgement.
He said, “It’s the prosecution’s right to appeal the judgement. But from what I witnessed in the court today, it will be very difficult for the appeal court to upturn the judgement.”
While expressing gratitude to God, one of the defendants, Mr Chinedu Akpunonu, said God has vindicated him from an attempt by some persons to smear his reputation.
He said, “From the beginning, I told my people that I was not involved in the killing. But the Lord gave me victory as a proof that I’m very innocent.
“I didn’t know I was very important to my people until I saw excitement in the faces of crowd that came to court. I’ve already forgiven all that put hands to put me in prison.I thank those that stood by me throughout my travail. I also thank my lawyer and the Judge for delivering a fair and sound judgement.”
“I have forgiven my accusers and I urge them to join hands to ensure peace reined in the community.
The prosecution counsel, Mr Jay Jay Ezeuko SAN, on his part said he would determine the next step after receiving a copy of the judgement.