The trial of the Nigeria-born terror suspect, Henry Okah, was concluded today at a high court in Johannesburg, South Africa. Mr. Okah, a prominent member of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), is accused of plotting terrorist activities in Nigeria.
Defense counsel Isaac Lucky Maunatlala opened his argument by telling the court that MEND was involved in an armed struggle. Stating that the struggle had been on for several decades, he reminded the court that Nigeria’s Minister for the Niger Delta, Mr. Orubebe, had testified to that fact.
The defense attorney also told the court that the emails by Jomo Gbomo, who claimed responsibility for the bombings of March 15, 2010 and October 1, 2010, came from Nigeria. Mr. Okah’s attorney asserted that the fact the email account could be operated by more than one person meant that his client was not guilty of the charge of terrorism.
A sore point during the trial focused on the uncertainty over the identity of the person named Jomo Gbomo as state witnesses offered varying testimonies about the identity of the said Jomo Gbomo. The credibility of the witnesses was attacked by the defense advocate who pointed out inconsistencies in details offered by witnesses.
The defense argued that Mr. X, who claimed to be the supervisor of the attacks, was not mentioned by other participants in the bombings. In addition, the witnesses claimed they used timers to activate the bombing even though investigations by the Nigerian government showed that mobile phones were used to detonate the bombs. State prosecutor, Shaun Abrahams, insisted that the phone records tied Mr. Okah to the perpetrators of the bombings. In addition, the prosecution argued that the bank record of a state witness, Chima Orlu, showed that the accused deposited money into the witness’s account. The prosecution explained that some months were missing from the bank account because the Nigerian government had not submitted the missing information. Speaking to one of our sources, Mrs. Okah accused the Nigerian government of desperation in instigating her husband’s arrest. She stated that the Nigerian government caused her husband to be arrested long before the arrest of the witnesses whose testimonies and affidavits the Nigerian government claimed were the basis for Mr. Okah’s arrest. Accusing the Nigerian government of fraud, she said the only way the Nigerian government could link tie her husband to any bombing was the fact that Mr. Okah had traveled to Nigeria and registered with his name in Port Harcourt. She said the Nigerian government subsequently tried to link planning for all bombing activities to the date of her husband’s visit to Nigeria.
Mrs. Okah said she was following the proceedings closely and trying not to be overcome by emotion, adding that there was more to the case than met the eye. She asked, “How possible is it that they can accuse my husband of a crime of this nature without investigation? There is an appalling lack of investigation done. My husband was stated to have been giving instructions for the bombing at the same time the South African police force was interrogating him at our residence. Our house was under siege from the early hours of 30th September to the late evening, yet the State Security Service agent, Mr. Abubakar, said my husband was giving instructions to the participants of a bombing on how to assemble dynamites, timers, movement of cars and so on. I cannot understand how they can want a man so badly that they are prepared to resort to anything to tie him to it. They even tried to use his journal entries of 5, 6 years back. A journal not a diary! These entries are used not minding whether the entries were observations, studies or general perceptions of my husband.”
The case was adjourned tentatively to Monday, January 21, 2013.