LAGOS, Oct 3 (Reuters) - A Nigerian judge on Friday ordered that the trial of suspected militant leader Henry Okah must go on despite an appeal by his defence team that the case be quashed, one of his lawyers said.
Okah is the suspected leader of the Movement of the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the main militant group in Nigeria's oil heartland whose campaign of violence has cut Nigerian production by a fifth over the past two years.
MEND declared a unilateral ceasefire almost two weeks ago after a six straight days of attacks on pipelines, flow stations and other oil and gas facilities in the delta's creeks. But it has warned it could resume attacks if provoked.
Okah still commands loyalty from several well-armed factions in the delta and his trial, being held behind closed doors, is being closely watched by his supporters.
One of Okah's lawyers, Wilson Ajuwa, said the prosecution had failed to provide documentary evidence to support its case and that the defence had appealed to have the case thrown out.
"They never availed us with the witness statements and proof of evidence, but today the judge overruled us and said the matter has to go on," Ajuwa told Reuters.
Okah was arrested in Angola last September and extradited to Nigeria to face trial for gun-running and treason. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
His wife has said he needs urgent medical care for a kidney ailment and has requested that he be flown to South Africa, where he has been treated in the past.
Ajuwa said the judge had ordered that Okah be given the care he needed, but said that he was still lobbying for him to be allowed to leave the country. (For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: http://africa.reuters.com/ ) (Reporting by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Giles Elgood)