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Nigeria authorities charge 20 over recent sectarian violence

[JURIST] Nigeria authorities on Thursday charged 20 individuals in connection with the recent sectarian violence in Plateau state [official website] involving killing of Christian villagers [AP report] near the city of Jos. All 20 individuals have pleaded not guilty [Reuters report] to five counts of arson, terrorism, killing, maiming, and possession of dangerous weapons. A federal court in Jos ordered the suspects to remain in custody until their trial on April 15. More than 160 suspects have been arrested in connection with the murders and authorities have stated that several are set to face similar charges. Those convicted could face the death penalty.

Last month, 49 people, predominately Muslims, were charged with murder [JURIST report] for the sectarian violence. The attacks were apparently in retaliation for the January violence between Muslims and Christians that left more than 300, mostly Muslims, dead. The city of Jos is located in an area of central Nigeria, which divides the predominately Muslim northern part of the country from the primarily Christian south. Authorities have indicated that the area is being patrolled by security forces to prevent further violence. In February, Human Rights Watch urged [JURIST report] acting President Goodluck Jonathan [BBC profile] to to "tackle the culture of impunity" in Nigeria. While HRW has called on Jonathan directly, other rights groups have petitioned international authorities [JURIST report] to take action to prevent recurring rights abuses.

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