Uduak Akpan, the first accused person in the murder of Iniubong Umoren, a final year student of the Department of Philosophy, University of Uyo, has told the Akwa Ibom state high court presided over by Justice Bassey Nkanang that he was tortured to sign a statement given to him at the Department of Security Services.
At the resume hearing on trial within trial in Uyo, the state capital, on Wednesday, the suspected murderer said he signed the statement to avoid more slaps and beatings from DSS officers.
Trial judge, Justice Bassey Nkanang, had adjourned the case for a mini-trial to be conducted in order to determine the voluntariness of that statement.
Recalled that counsel to Uduak Akpan, Mr Sampson Adula, had last week objected to its admissibility on grounds that it was not made voluntarily.
Speaking while being cross-examined during the mini-trial, Uduak Akpan who is facing a two-count of rape and murder admitted that he was the person speaking in the video CD played in the court, but stated that the DSS officers gave him the answers and the questions to rehearse before the video recording.
He said, “They said I should practice those questions and answers and they also said when they start recording that I should give them the answers according to what I practiced”.
The first accused had also disowned the statements that two police officers, the IPO and ASP had testified that he made statement to them in the course of their investigation in the matter.
However, when cross-examined in the trial-within-trial, the DSS investigator, Ama Okeke (PW10) told the court that the allegation that the first accused made the statement the prosecuting counsel sought to tender in evidence involuntarily was not correct.
The prosecution witness testified that the DSS has a standard interrogation room with electronic gadgets, cameras, recorder, pen, tables, chairs etc, where a suspect could relax to write or make his or her statement voluntarily.
“And when the first accused person was in this room, he was asked if he knows why he was in the DSS? My Lord he had voluntarily told my team that it is because he killed Iniubong Ephraim Umoren,” Okeke also testified.
The witness further testified that it was not also correct that the video recording of the first accused which was played in the court was as a result of questions and answers as alleged by the first accused person, noting that his team only asked Uduak Akpan to narrate what happened that led to the death of Iniubong Umoren.
The court admitted the video Compact Disc (Video CD) that was played in court in evidence, marked as exhibit two in trial-within-trial.
However, Justice Bassey Nkanang adjourned the case till February 24, for ruling on the trial-within trial and also for the conclusion of the evidence of PW10.
Fielding questions from newsmen after the court proceedings on what he expects from ruling on the mini-trial, Samson Adula, the first accused person’s Lawyer responded “If I make any comment on that it would amount to me being prejudicial.
“The Judge reserves that discretion to decide on what to do, whether to admit it or not. The outcome is left for the court to decide, so I cannot make any comment on that. The work of a defence lawyer is not to defend at all costs. It is to ensure that all the procedures are discretely followed”
The state deputy director, Directorate of Public Prosecution, Friday Itim, who noted that (PW10) and DSS investigator was the last witness for the prosecution, explained that the DSS had to come into the matter to ensure that nothing was swept under the carpet.
The prosecution, however, wondered why the first accused kept claiming that he was tortured to sign a statement, and also denying making statement in connection with the charge brought against him.
He explained that in the video recording played in court where Uduak-Abasi Akpan was confessing to the DSS investigation team, there was nothing showing that he was being threatened or tortured.
“What we have done today is that we have finished the trial-within-trial because the accused said the statement is not his. Probably without that video we would still be wondering if he was beaten, tortured, or not. So on February 24 the Court that gives its ruling and also concludes the evidence of PW10”, he said.