By Kayode Matthew, News Editor, with agency report
JOHANNESBURG —A JOHANNESBURG court in South Africa was, yesterday, told that the former leader of Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, MEND, Henry Okah, who is facing trial for allegedly masterminding the October 1 twin car bombs in Abuja allegedly sent a go_ahead to his accomplices in Nigeria to detonate the bombs.
State Prosecutor, Shaun Abrahams, made the submission before the court at the hearing of Okah’s bail application.
He said that Okah used the pseudonym, Jomo Gbomo, to send e-mails warning about the attacks to the Nigerian authorities and later gave directive to his accomplices to carry out the attack.
The prosecutor argued that the fact that Henry Okah accepted amnesty in his home country was evidence he was a leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND.
He said: “He accepted amnesty and committed himself to working with the Nigerian government in finding peace in the Niger Delta Region. The fact that he still supports the rebels’ cause, proves that he is still the leader of MEND.”
Abrahams pointed out that even his wife, Azuka Okah had referred to him as the “leader of MEND”, further proving Okah was an active participant in the movement.
According to him, there was evidence linking Okah to one of the two men still wanted for the Nigerian Independence Day bombing and further told the court that Okah was classified as a “prohibited person” after irregularities were detected on his application for South African citizenship.
Abrahams said weapons proliferation and money laundering charges were being investigated against Okah. and that he’s “the mastermind” behind the attacks.
The State opposed Okah’s bail on grounds he had the resources to intimidate and influence witnesses – Nigerian nationals in South Africa and west Africa.
Defence counsel Rudi Krause contended that “Contradicting statements from Nigeria about who was responsible for the bombings should not be relied on as evidence.”
He submitted that two search_and_seizure operations conducted by police at Okah’s home were an indication the State had a weak case.
The fact that investigating officer Lieutenant Colonel Graeme Zeeman conducted a raid without obtaining a search warrant, was an indication he did not have “reasonable belief” he would be granted the document.
But the prosecutor said “due to the lateness of the hour” police could not obtain a warrant on the eve of the September 30 search_and_seizure noting that Zeeman conducted the search as he had reasonable belief.
At the conclusion of the hearing, trial Magistrate Hein Louw told the prosecution that it had not brought forward evidence directly linking Okah to the crime. “The State’s evidence is vague,” he said.
Producing phone call
Okah’s defence lawyer Rudi Krause also challenged the State to produce any phone call, or e_mail which linked his client to the bombings.
State prosecutor Shaun Abrahams said the State had intentionally withheld this information as its investigation was in its infancy. “You are damned if you do, you are damned if you don’t, “ Magistrate Louw told Abrahams. “I do understand your predicament,” he added.
The Magistrate, however, gave the State an ultimatum, saying that it should either reopen its case or allow him to pass judgment in the bail application.
Abrahams then told the court that the State would apply for its case to be reopened. “I will grant the State (permission) to reopen its case, but I will deal with this matter tomorrow morning. Should the State not be able to lead new evidence, I will deem it closed,” said Louw.
The matter has, therefore, been adjourned till today.
Okah faces charges of engaging in terrorist activities, conspiracy to engage in terrorist activity, and delivering, placing and detonating an explosive device.