Minister denies torture claims in Okah trial

2012-10-02 15:40

A Nigerian government minister has denied in the South Gauteng High Court that his government would extract information from a witness by torturing them.

Elder Godsday Orubebe, the minister of Niger Delta affairs, today testified in the terrorism trial of Henry Okah, who is accused of masterminding two terrorist attacks in 2010.

Eight people were killed and over 53 were injured in the attacks in Abuja in October 2010.

Okah is said to be one of the leaders of the rebel group, Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), which carried out guerilla warfare against oil companies in the oil-rich Niger Delta between 2005 and 2008.

He allegedly planned the attacks while living in Johannesburg, which means he can be tried for the offences under South African law.

Orubebe said he had headed a team which was tasked with convincing all militants in the region to lay down their arms.

He said that while the majority of Mend were now co-operating with government, there remained a militant faction who was opposed to laying down arms.

Orubebe said that Okah was linked to this militant faction, although he admitted he did not know precisely how.

But Okah’s lawyer, Advocate Lucky Maunatlala, said that one of what he referred to as the State’s “star witnesses” had falsely accused Okah of the crime while being tortured by the Nigerian authorities.

Maunatlala said that Obi Nwabueze, who is also being tried for involvement in the bombings in Nigeria, had implicated Okah in a statement.

“He then deposed to seven affidavits that say he was tortured to give those statements,” said Maunatlala.

“What would you say if I said to you that your government is responsible for obtaining evidence against Mr Okah through torture ... do you confirm or deny that?”

Orubebe said this was “absolutely false”.

Security around proceedings was extremely tight, with an armed police presence both inside and outside.

The trial is set to continue tomorrow.

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