LAGOS, Nigeria, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- Evidence in a Nigerian court case against labor unions suggests authorities are trying to silence labor activists, Human Rights Watch said.
Unions in Nigeria this week called off a nationwide strike after the government said it would reinstate part of a fuel subsidy abandoned at the beginning of the year.
Union leader Osmond Ugwu and union member Raphael Elobuike were arrested in October and charged with attempted murder. Both men were seized after fights broke out between security forces and union leaders at a labor meeting, which Human Rights Watch said was peaceful.
"A review of the prosecution's evidence reveals an apparent bid by the police and prosecution to silence union activists," Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
The men were arrested following disputes between state workers and labor unions over plans to raise the country's minimum wage.
Erwin van der Borght, who directs the African program at Amnesty International, said the pressure on labor unions in Nigeria is outlandish.
"The reprehensible actions of the state are a gross violation of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly," he said.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and nearly three dozen Nigerian civil organizations signed a statement condemning the government's action.