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Igbo Man Drag US Varsity, Lecturer To Court Over Call On America To Designate IPOB As Terrorists Group, Demand $3Million As Damages

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Igbo Man Drag US Varsity, Lecturer To Court Over Call On America To Designate IPOB As Terrorists Group, Demand $3Million As Damages

Igbo Man Drag US Varsity, Lecturer To Court Over Call On America To Designate IPOB As Terrorists Group, Demand $3Million As Damages

The American Veterans Of Igbo Descent (AVID) group has dragged an American scholar, Dr Ivan Sascha Sheehan to court over his call on the United States of American government to designate the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) as a terrorists’ organisation.

Sheehan, who is the executive director of the school of public and international affairs at the University of Baltimore, in an opinion article published in The Washington Times in 2021 gave reasons why IPOB should be designated as a terrorists’ group by the United States.

In 2017, the Nigerian government declared IPOB as a terrorists’ organisation.

Speaking on the activities of IPOB, Sheehan had claimed that the establishment of the Eastern Security Network (ESN) by IPOB signalled the end of the group’s “pretences of being a peaceful movement.”

However, the Igbo group in a lawsuit filed at the District Court of Maryland described the statement by the university lecturer as defamatory.

Also sued in the case is the University of Baltimore, Maryland as second defendant.

“On or about Monday, October 4, 2021, Defendant Sheehan published in The Washington Times an “ANALYSIS/OPINION” defamatory article headlined “U/S/ ignores small African terrorist group IPOB at its peril.” The article contained multiple defamatory falsehoods about IPOB published with ill will and with knowledge of their falsity or with reckless disregard of whether they were true or not,” part of the court documents read.

“Defamatory falsehood number 1 asserted “An African terrorist organization [IPOB] is suing U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken….” IPOB is not a terrorist organization under U.S. law or any law of a foreign country other than Nigeria. IPOB’s designation as terrorist organization in Nigeria was made via a judicial edict with no hearing or due process.

“IPOB opposes violence. It supports an independent Biafran sovereignty by peaceful means. At present, the Federal Republic of Nigeria is engaged in an ongoing genocide of Biafrans. Terrorist organisations employ unlawful violence against civilians to advance political objectives. IPOB does not.

“Defamatory falsehood number 2 asserted, in context, that IPOB deserves listing as a foreign terrorist organisation by the Secretary of State pursuant to section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act: “The violent secessionist group in question—the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB)—is yet to be designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the US Department of State.” Among other things, an FTO listing requires proof that the organization engages in premeditated politically motivated violence against civilians or noncombatants. See 22 U.S.C. 2656f(d)(2); 8 U.S.C. 1182 (a) (3) (B).

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“IPOB does not engage in politically motivated violence against civilians or noncombatants or otherwise and does not qualify for listing as an FTO under the laws of the United States. Page 3 of 16 Case 1:22-cv-02508-JRR Document 3 Filed 11/02/22 Page 4 of 16. Defamatory falsehood number 3, in context, asserted that IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu supports terrorism: “That [Nnamdi Kanu] feels no need to even disguise his support for terrorism is worrisome.” But Nnamdi Kanu opposes terrorism. It is the Federal Government of Nigeria that daily practices terrorism against Biafrans.

“Defamatory falsehood number 4, in context, asserted that since December 2020, IPOB has engaged in violent and escalating attacks on both Nigerian security personnel and civilians: “Since then [December 2020] violent IPOB attacks on both security personnel and civilians have surged by a terrifying 59% deaths by 344%.” In fact, IPOB refrains from the use of force except in self-defence. IPOB has not attacked either security personnel or civilians since December 2020 or otherwise.

“Defamatory falsehood number 5, in context, accused IPOB of killing the Fulani and inciting murder of any person who rents or provides accommodations to a Fulani: “Through Radio Biafra, IPOB regularly calls on its supporters to not only kill the Fulani, but to kill ‘any landlord that gives accommodations or rents his house or her house to a Fulani person.” In fact, IPOB does not call on supporters to kill the Fulani. Neither does IPOB call on its supporters to kill landlords that rent to the Fulani.

“Defamatory falsehood number 6, in context, accuses IPOB of butchering six young Fulani children with machetes, burning a baby alive, and discarding the corpses in mass graves: “In one recent [IPOB] attack on a Fulani community, six young children were butchered with machetes—one, a baby, was burned alive. Their bodies were discarded in mass graves.” In fact, IPOB did not kill young Fulani children, did not burn a baby alive, and did not bury the putative corpses in mass graves. Page 4 of 16 Case 1:22-cv-02508-JRR Document 3 Filed 11/02/22 Page 5 of 16.

“Defamatory falsehood number 7, in context, accuses IPOB of resorting to threats and violence to coerce politicians and civilians to surrender to its political demands: “Whether with threats made on Biafra Radio or repeated acts of violence, IPOB coerces politicians and civilians to acquiesce to its radical political demands.”

“In fact, IPOB refrains from threats or violence or coercion in its political activities, which are
peaceful and protected by the universally protected rights of free speech or association under international law. Defamatory falsehoods 1-7 all falsely accuse IPOB of crimes of violence, including terrorism, which are per se defamatory. The Defamatory publications widely aired in Nigerian News Networks and contributed to escalation of extrajudicial killings in the Southeast of Nigeria, and a lot of IPOB are still unlawfully jailed.

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“Members of AVID who are mostly IPOB are retired and serving military. The taint of terrorism is an affront to the values they all uphold. It goes against the Military Code, and everything they have fought for in wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places. It adversely impacts them and may even lead to loss of their earned Veterans Benefits. The smear of terrorism also affects them because of their Igbo ancestry, particularly considering their identification as US Veterans of Igbo Descent.

“Like it is the case with innocent citizens from some terrorists’ states such as Iran. The labelling or finding of terrorism attracts more scrutiny and even hate induced violence.

Jewish synagogues and institutions have been increasingly targeted and there is documented increase in hate crimes against Jewish Americans because of the exported hatred of Jewish Americans. Because of the Defendants Defamatory publications, similar sentiments and hates has been directed towards Biafran-Americans or Igbo Americans.”

Among the reliefs sought, the group asked the court to pay over 3 million dollars as damages.

“WHEREFORE, Plaintiff demands judgment against Defendants, jointly and severally as follows: a) For general damages as to Counts 1-14 of not less than TWO MILLION DOLLARS as to each count or such other amount to be determined at trial,” the court document read further.

“b) For special damages as to Counts 1-14 of not less than ONE MILLION FIVE DOLLARS as to each count or such other amount to be determined at trial;

“c) For punitive damages against each Defendant as to Counts 1-14, respectively, in an amount to be determined at trial, but not less than ten times the amount of general and special damages as to each count, to punish and penalize Defendants and to deter repetition.

“d) For an injunction requiring Defendants to remove all statements adjudicated defamatory in this case from all websites or other digital, social media, or hard copy platforms in their control.

“e) For an injunction requiring Defendants to publish a retraction of the statements found defamatory including a retraction published in The Washington Times.

“f) For attorneys’ fees and costs incurred by Plaintiffs in this action; and, (g) For such other and further relief as the Court deems just and proper.

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