The Federal High Court sitting in Awka on Wednesday ordered the immediate release on bail of six Madonna University students and a lecturer detained over alleged malicious publication against the institution.
The defendants were detained since January, for an opinion they posted on Facebook, considered inimical to the University by the management.
According to an eleven-count charge against them, the Prosecutor, Mr A.N. Obo, said the false publication on social media were injurious to the image of the proprietor and the institution.
The prosecutor said the alleged offences were punishable under sections 27 (1) (b) and 24 (1) (b) of the Cyber crimes (Prohibition, Prevention, etc) Act, 2015.
However, in a resumed hearing on Wednesday, Justice Babatunde Quadri, ordered their immediate release on new bail conditions after three adjournments as a result of his absence.
The defendants through their counsel, Mr. Christopher Igwe, had applied for the variation of the earlier conditions of bail granted them in February, which they described as stringent.
The prosecutor, Obo did not oppose the bail application.
Quadri said the order became necessary in view of the annual long vacation to be embarked upon by judges from July 8.
The presiding judge, who ordered the immediate release of the defendants, said they had two months to perfect the bail conditions.
The matter was adjourned to Oct. 7 for hearing.
Reacting, counsel to the defendants, Mr. Christopher Igwe, commended the court for its magnanimity on the order for the immediate release of the defendants.
“We are happy that the boys will be going home. We appreciate the wheel of justice for swinging to our side today.
“Bail is a Constitutional right that should not be taken away from anybody,” he said.
Also speaking, a parent of a defendant, Mr Christopher Onyejekwe commended Gov. Willie Obiano, the Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev. Paulinus Ezeokafor, NANS and the media for their support.
“Today marked 166 days that the management of the institution detained the students.
“I thank God that the judge granted them bail because the first time the judge granted bail, the condition was stringent.
“But I am not really happy because the behaviour of intimidating the students is unwarranted especially by an institution that is owned by a Catholic.
“I urge stakeholders in the Church to look into the matter before the image of the church is dragged to the mud,” Onyejekwe said.
He begged the management of the institution to reconsider its position and understand that the case could generate a negative perception of the school before parents and prospective students.