South Africa convicts Henry Okah for Abuja bombs..Keyamo Fumes



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(Reuters) – A South African court found a suspected former Niger Delta rebel leader guilty on Monday of masterminding two deadly car bombings in Nigeria in 2010.

Henry Okah, who denies he ever led the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, moved to South Africa after Nigeria issued an amnesty for MEND members in 2009, lifting charges of gun-running and treason against him.

The South African court convicted him on 13 counts, including conspiracy to commit terrorism and detonating explosives, in the 2010 bombings that killed at least 10 people during independence day celebrations in Abuja – a verdict welcomed by Nigeria.

“This conviction is a warning that there is no hiding place for terrorists,” Marilyn Ogar, spokeswoman of Nigeria’s secret service, said by telephone. “Wherever you are, the law will catch up, as it has with Henry Okah.”

MEND’s attacks on oilfields and pipelines across the swampy region that is home to Africa’s biggest oil and gas industry cost Nigeria $1 billion a month in lost revenues at its peak, according to the central bank.

The South African court, which tried Okah under counter-terrorism laws that cover crimes committed outside the country, is due to sentence him on Jan. 30.

Some Niger Delta residents said they thought Okah was a scapegoat and questioned why he had been convicted while many other bombers in Nigeria – including members of Islamist sect Boko Haram who have killed hundreds – walk free.

“This is a conspiracy … there have been so many other bombings, yet nothing has been done to prosecute anyone – like the bombings of churches in the north,” said Nengi James, 29, a youth leader in Yenagoa.

“We think Henry is not guilty and God will judge. Some Nigerian officials just wanted him jailed.” (Reporting by Peroshni Govender; Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Robin Pomeroy). Reuters

Keyamo Fumes

Festus Keyamo has condemned the conviction of Okah in South Africa. “The fundamental flaw in the trial is that Henry Okah was not given adequate facilities and the opportunity to defend himself. This is because after the prosecution closed its case in South

Africa, the defence attorneys and my Chambers here in Abuja tried frantically to summon the witnesses of Henry Okah who are based here in Nigeria to testify on his behalf. These witnesses include some government officials.

“In this regard, we wrote to the Attorney-General of the Federation who replied and directed that Henry’s counsel in South Africa apply to the court there for an order to secure the legal assistance of the Attorney-General of Nigeria. This was only two weeks ago

“Without giving Henry’s counsel in South Africa adequate time and facilities to follow the directives, the South African court foreclosed his opportunity to call witnesses and rushed to convict him. This is a breach of his fundamental right to fair hearing and an obvious attempt by the South African authorities to please Nigeria at all cost.”

Read Keyamo’s statement below:

The decision of the South African Court that convicted Henry Okah this morning of charges relating to terrorism is politically motivated and legally incorrect.

As counsel to Charles Okah and others who are facing the same set of charges under Nigerian Laws, I have been actively involved in coordinating the trials both in South Africa and in Nigeria.

The fundamental flaw in the trial is that Henry Okah was not given adequate facilities and the opportunity to defend himself. This is because after the prosecution closed its case in South

Africa, the defence attorneys and my Chambers here in Abuja tried frantically to summon the witnesses of Henry Okah who are based here in Nigeria to testify on his behalf. These witnesses include some government officials.

In this regard, we wrote to the Attorney-General of the Federation who replied and directed that Henry’s counsel in South Africa apply to the court there for an order to secure the legal assistance of the Attorney-General of Nigeria. This was only two weeks ago

Without giving Henry’s counsel in South Africa adequate time and facilities to follow the directives, the South African court foreclosed his opportunity to call witnesses and rushed to convict him. This is a breach of his fundamental right to fair hearing and an obvious attempt by the South African authorities to please Nigeria at all cost. That is why the judgment is nothing but political. Whilst all Nigerians empathise with those who lost their lives and limbs in the October 1, 2010 bombing, it is wrong to convict anybody for it without due process. Henry has been convicted without due process.

I condemn this judgment and call on Nigerians and the international community to condemn the trial and judgment of Henry Okah whose only offence was his refusal to accept the so-called amnesty offered by the Yar’Adua-Jonathan administration and his insistence on the Niger-Delta controlling its resources.

With the recent condemnation of Jonathan by some militants who initially accepted the amnesty programme, I am sure they now know that Henry Okah was correct not to have accepted the poisoned chalice called amnesty.

The Nigerian government must immediately use all diplomatic efforts to ensure that Henry Okah does not die in a South African prison and for the South African government to grant him

unconditional pardon. This is without prejudice to his right to appeal against the judgment.

Thank you.

FESTUS

KEYAMO, ESQ.

 

 


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