By IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI, Abuja
The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, yesterday, declined to grant bail to three Lebanese suspects, Mustapha Fawaz, Abdullahi Thahini and Tahal Roda, accused of complicity in the illegal importation of arms into Nigeria.
While dismissing a consolidated bail application filed by the accused persons who were said to belong to the military wing of an alleged Lebanon based terrorist group, Hezbollah, Justice Ademola Adeniyi, okayed accelerated hearing into the six-count terrorism charge that the federal government preferred against them.
Besides, the court refused to issue an order compelling the government to unseal Amigo Supermarket and Wonderland Resort, Abuja, which are business ventures co-owned by the 1st accused person, Fawaz.
Adjourning hearing on the substantive case against them to July 29, 30 and 31, Justice Adeniyi remanded the accused persons in custody of the Department of State Services, DSS, just as he directed that they should be accorded unfettered access to their lawyers, family members and doctors.
The judge described the allegation leveled against the accused persons as “grave”, noting that since they all have dual citizenship, there is the likelihood that they may not be available to face their trial if released on bail.
Justice Adeniyi stressed that despite the plea of not guilty the accused persons entered to the charge, he said having gone through the proof of evidence adduced before the court, comprising pictures of firearms and ammunition recovered from the suspects, he was satisfied that the government successfully established a prima-facie case against them. The court said it was not persuaded by the medical report the accused persons relied upon to seek bail on health ground, saying it was not minded to exercise its discretion in favour of the Lebanese suspects considering that the case against them bothers on threat to national security.
It said: “Having perused the proof of evidence as regards exhibits 8(1) to 8 (4), which is a large quantity of negative weapons, there is the likelihood that the accused persons jumping bail if released.
“Moreover, once the security of the state is in jeopardy, it is difficult for the court to grant bail. Therefore the bail application is hereby refused and accordingly dismissed.”
On the issue of sealed properties of the 1st accused person, the court held that, “The law allows the state to takeover premises of any body for the purposes of investigation.”
It will be recalled that the accused persons had pleaded with the court to order their release from detention, saying the Lebanese Ambassador had agreed to sign an undertaking to show that they would not jump bail.
Their request was vehemently opposed by the government which told the court that it has garnered enough evidence towards establishing that the accused persons belong to a terrorist organization with a cell in Nigeria.
It will be recalled that the accused persons had instituted N50billion suit against the government, contending that their continued detention constitutes a breach of their fundamental human right.
They insisted that the large cache of arms recovered from them by the Military Joint Task Force, JTF, were mere Hunting-Rifles, adding that a top member of Hezbollah which they said is a political party in Lebanon, once met and shook hands with President Goodluck Jonathan at Aso Rock.
They produced a picture before the court depicting where the said topnotch of the organization identified as Dr Hussein Hajj, stood with President Jonathan.
The weapons which were uncovered at an underground bunker situated at No. 3 Gaya Road, off Bompai Road in Kano, after a combined team of the JTF involving soldiers from 3 Brigade in Kano and Kano DSS conducted a thorough search of the bunker, included anti-tank weapons, rocket-propelled guns, anti-tank/anti-personnel mines and other dangerous weapons.
According to the security operatives that conducted the search, the arms and ammunition were properly concealed with several layers of concrete and placed in coolers, drums and bags neatly wrapped.
The security services had maintained that the weapons were intended to be used and attack Israeli and Western targets based in Nigeria.