A High Court sitting in Awka, Anambra state has discharged and acquitted two remaining suspects standing trial for their alleged involvement in the killing of worshipers at a Catholic Church in Ozubulu area of the state.
In a ruling that lasted over three hours, Justice Fidelis Aniukwu ruled that the prosecution counsel could not prove beyond reasonable doubt the allegations levelled against the defendants, Chinedu Akpunonu and Onyebuchi Mbanefo.
It would be recalled that unknown gunmen had on August 6, 2017 invaded St. Philips Catholic Church, Ozubulu in Ekwusigo local government area of the state and killed about 13 people.
The judge had in December 2018 discharged two out of the four persons initially arraigned before the high court in November 2017 following the church attack.
According to Justice Aniukwu, the prosecution witnesses could not provide any evidence linking the defendants with the murder as alleged.
Reacting to the judgement, the defence counsel, Mr Festus Keyamo SAN, described it as landmark in view of the accelerated hearing granted by the presiding judge.
Keyamo, represented in court by another counsel, Mr Samuel Echeakputa, said he would not be surprised if the judgement would be appealed.
“It’s the prosecution’s right to appeal the judgement. But from what I witnessed in the court today, it will be very difficult for the appeal court to upturn the judgement,” he said.
One of the defendants, Mr Chinedu Akpunonu, was full of gratitude to God for vindicating him from what he described as an attempt by some persons to smear his reputation.
He said he had forgiven his accusers, urging them to join hands to ensure peace reign in the community.
“From the beginning, I told my people that I was not involved in the killing. But the Lord gave me victory as a proof that I’m very innocent.
“I didn’t know I was very important to my people until I saw excitement in the faces of the crowd that came to court. I’ve already forgiven all that put hands to put me in prison.
“I thank those that stood by me throughout my travail. I also thank my lawyer and the judge for delivering a fair and sound judgement,” he said.
Meanwhile, the prosecution counsel, Mr Jay Jay Ezeuko SAN, said he would determine the next step after receiving a copy of the judgement.