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New Jersey Journalist Being Detained In Nigeria For Months Over Pro-Democracy Views

HAWORTH, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Strangers, friends, and neighbors rally in a New Jersey community after a journalist is jailed in Nigeria.

Yellow ribbons tied carefully to the trees in the center of a small Bergen County borough serve as a sign of both heartbreak and hope.

"It's a powerful symbol. Oh it's so powerful every time I think of it I tear up," Opeyemi Sowore said.

Every ribbon represents a day Sowore's husband has been away from his home and his family in Haworth – locked up and isolated in his native Nigeria. So far there are 91 ribbons.

Yele Sowore's wife looks at the ribbons tied to trees in his honor. (Credit: CBS2)

"He went away for a business trip and a few days into it he was illegally abducted by the Nigerian government," Sowore said. "Because he spoke out about corruption and humans rights violations in Nigeria."

Yele Sowore owns Sahara Reporters, an online publication based in New York that raises awareness about issues in Nigeria. He was detained back in August after allegedly organizing a pro-democracy protest there.

Nigeria journalist
Yele Sowore's Sahara Reporters website (Credit: CBS2)

Opeyemi and their two children are desperate for him to be out of danger.

"Three months is a long time for young children not to have seen their father."

Since she started speaking publicly they won't even let Sowore call home.

"Where does that strength come from right now?" CBS2's Jessica Layton asked the wife.

"The strength comes from the community, my family, and the supporters," Sowore said.

This week hundreds attended a vigil to raise awareness about Yele's detention. Town council member Jackie Guenego is urging people to call congressional representatives and ask them to make a case for his release.

"To really make sure our government is impressing upon the Nigerian government how important it is for Yele to come home," Guenego said.

"We remain very, very hopeful and it's one day at a time."

One day, one ribbon at a time.

The hope and prayer is that it won't be long before the community is holding a welcome home ceremony for Yele. His trial is set to start in Nigeria next Wednesday.

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