By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—Federal Government, yesterday, filed an additional 10-count terrorism charge against the three Lebanese suspects, Mustapha Fawaz, Abdullahi Thahini and Tahal Roda, accused of complicity in the illegal importation of arms into Nigeria.
The action of the Federal Government brought the total charge against the accused persons, said to belong to the military wing of an alleged Lebanon-based terrorist group, Hezbollah, to 16 counts.
Meanwhile, the three suspects, who were charged alongside their business outfits, Amigo Supermarket Limited and Wonderland Amusement Park Resort, yesterday, pleaded not guilty to the amended charges and were subsequently remanded in custody of Department of State Security, DSS, by trial Justice Ademola Adeniyi.
Before the case was adjourned till today for continuation of hearing, Federal Government brought three witnesses that testified against the accused.
The masked witnesses, narrated how the Lebanese were nabbed after weapons were recovered from their residence at 3, Gaya Road, off Bompai Road in Kano.
The weapons, which were allegedly uncovered at an underground bunker after a combined team of 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 and 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 to attack Israeli and Western targets based in Nigeria.
In the fresh charge it filed against them, Federal Government further alleged that the accused persons were also involved in terrorist funding, adding that the 2nd accused person, Thahini, was on May 11, apprehended at the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport with $61,170,000, which he allegedly attempted to smuggle out of Nigeria.
Federal Government told the court that two of those that conspired to unlawfully import prohibited firearms into the country, Abdalhassan Tahir and Ghazi Kassim were still at large.
It added that the accused persons had been into the illegal business from February 1988 to March 2008.
Meanwhile, the prosecuting counsel, Mr Simon Egede, yesterday, told the court that he intends to call five more witnesses against the accused person.
It will be recalled that the court had on July 12, denied the accused persons bail on security grounds.
The court noted that “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 of 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.”
The accused persons had equally instituted an N50 billion suit against the government, contending that their continued detention constitutes a breach to 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 organisation identified as Dr. Hussein Hajj, stood with President Jonathan.