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Saro-Wiwa was one of Nigeria's most effective critics

November 11, 1995
Web posted at: 7:10 a.m. EST

Ken Saro-Wiwa

LONDON (CNN) -- Playwright and environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa was hanged to death Friday, supposedly for killing one of his own.

Saro-Wiwa, a member of the Ogoni ethnic community, was charged with murdering four of the group's leaders. But Saro-Wiwa went to his death saying he was framed because of his criticism of the exploitation of the oil-rich Ogoni basin.

His death provoked a stinging backlash from the international community, but Nigeria's military leaders remained unswayed. They insisted that Saro-Wiwa had murdered the original heads of the environmental movement in Ogoni.

A recent nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, Saro-Wiwa was widely noted for his efforts to protect the Ogoni people, their land, the waters and wildlife from further commercial exploitation. Last year, he received Sweden's prestigious Right Livelihood Award. This year, he was given the Goldman Prize in San Francisco.

Saro-Wiwa never concealed his criticism of Nigeria's military regime, led by Gen. Sani Abacha. Two of his books satirized the ruling elite. He also wrote and produced a popular television series which mocked the government and the rich.

Amnesty International, which opposes the death penalty, said Nigeria had silenced one of its most effective critics. In Britain, the Ogoni Community Association said the memory of "these men of peace lives on in Ogoni."

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