Human Rights Watch today called for the unconditional release of Olisa Agbakoba, a prominent Nigerian human rights lawyer and founding president of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO). Olisa was detained by police in Lagos on Tuesday and subsequently charged with holding an illegal meeting.

Agbakoba reportedly intervened with police who were preparing to disperse a crowd which had gathered for the rally, asking them to allow the meeting to go ahead peacefully. He was then dragged into a van and taken to Panti Street police station, Yaba, where he was held overnight. He was beaten on his face with the butt of a rifle. At least twenty to thirty others were also detained at the rally, though Agbakoba and some others have been released.

Human Rights Watch believes that Olisa Agbakoba and the others held have been arrested purely to prevent them exercising their rights to free speech guaranteed under international law and by the Nigerian constitution. We call for their immediate and unconditional release of those who remain in detention and demand that the charge against Agbakoba be dropped.