Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Nigeria Executes Writer; World Leaders Outraged

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Nigeria Executes Writer; World Leaders Outraged

Article excerpt

Defying international appeals for clemency, Nigeria's military rulers hanged playwright Ken Saro-Wiwa on Friday, along with eight other anti-government activists.

The United States, European governments and human rights groups reacted with outrage. President Nelson Mandela of South Africa and British Prime Minister John Major demanded that Nigeria be ousted from the Commonwealth of Britain and its former colonies.

President Bill Clinton recalled the U.S. envoy to Lagos, imposed an arms embargo and extended a ban on granting visas to Nigerians.

Saro-Wiwa, 54, was convicted in the deaths of four men during a May 1994 political rally. He maintained that he was framed because of his opposition to the military regime of Gen. Sani Abacha and to the oil industry that brings in 80 percent of Nigeria's export income.

"This heinous act by the Nigerian authorities flies in the face of appeals by the world community for a stay of execution," Mandela said today in Auckland, New Zealand, where the Commonwealth was meeting.

An ethnic Ogoni, Saro-Wiwa campaigned on behalf of the 500,000 Ogoni who live in Nigeria's southern region, home to most of the nation's oil wells. The Ogoni say the oil industry is polluting their land and water.

A recent nominee for a Nobel Peace Prize, Saro-Wiwa received Sweden's $250,000 Right Livelihood Award last year and the Goldman Prize from a San Francisco foundation this year, which recognized him as one of Africa's leading environmentalists.

He wrote plays, children's books and two novels critical of the military government - "Sozaboy," the story of a cabdriver who finds himself in the army, and "Prisoner of Jebs," which poked fun at the ruling elite.

A tribunal in the southern Nigerian oil city of Port Harcourt convicted Saro-Wiwa and the other eight men, all Ogonis, of murder on Oct. 31. The ruling military council upheld the death sentences Wednesday.

The men's wives tried to bring them a meal late Thursday but were turned away. …

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