Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Terrorism: South African court jails Henry Okah for 24 years over Abuja And Warri bombings

Johannesburg, yesterday sentenced Henry Okah, leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, to a total of 24 years imprisonment for his role in the October 1, 2010 bomb explosions that killed and injured several people during Nigeria’s Independence Day celebrations in Eagle Square, Abuja.
Okah had been found guilty of 13 charges bordering on terrorism, including conspiracy and placement of explosive devices and detonation of the same in January and the court adjourned fixing his sentencing for a later date.
Judge Neels Claassen sentenced Okah to 12 years imprisonment for each of the bombings and 13 years for the threats made to the South African government after his arrest in October 2010.
“Effectively, the accused (Okah) is therefore sentenced to 24 years imprisonment,” Judge Neels Claassen said as he handed down sentence.
The 13 years would run concurrently with the 24 years.
The charges related to two car bombs in Abuja in which 12 people were killed and 36 injured on October 1, 2010, on the anniversary of independence.
The second bombing took place in Warri on March 15, 2010 at a post amnesty dialogue meeting were one person was killed and 11 seriously injured.
In both bombings, two car bombs went off minutes apart in both places. The cars were parked in close proximity to each other.
Okah is thought to be the first foreign national to be tried for terrorism in South Africa. He has been in custody since his arrest in October 2010, a day after the Abuja bombings.
Okah did not testify during trial, prompting the judge to say that his failure to take the stand meant the evidence against him remained uncontested.
He has had several run-ins with the law. In September 2007, he was arrested for arms and explosives trafficking in Angola and later extradited to Nigeria.
Police identified him as “an international gun-runner and a major oil bunkerer (thief) in the Niger Delta,” AFP.
In January, during judgment, Claassen said the state had proved Okah’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt, and his failure to testify meant the evidence against him remained uncontested.
Okah denied any involvement, claiming the charges against him were politically motivated.

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