Diary, weapons receipt at Okah home

2010-10-14 22:17

Johannesburg - South African prosecutors said on Thursday that authorities had seized diaries vowing a "fight to the end" and a quotation for rocket-propelled grenades from the home of a Nigerian man accused of involvement in deadly car bomb attacks in his homeland.

The news came at a bail hearing for Henry Okah, who was arrested in Johannesburg on October 2 and is being held on terror charges in connection with the bombings that killed at least 12 people in Nigeria's capital during a celebration to mark 50 years of independence.

The hearing was adjourned until Friday.

Okah's lawyers say he denies any involvement in the attacks and say he is not a member of the militant group that claimed responsibility - the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, or MEND.

The diary entries, read in court, discuss guerilla fighters, training discipline, the use of explosives, boats and night vision. In an entry dated September 19 2010, Okah wrote:

"God is with us. We will fight to the end," - 11 days before the attacks.

Prosecutors said they also found in Okah's home a September 3 invoice from a Chinese company not registered to deal in arms in South Africa showing the price of rocket launchers, rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades, guns and heavy artillery.

Mastermind

Nigeria's attorney general Mohammed Bello Adoke sent a written affidavit pleading for the magistrate not to release Okah, calling him the mastermind of the militant group and charging he is engaged in warfare and "economic sabotage" against Nigeria.

Okah, who has lived in South Africa for the past year, denies any involvement with MEND though he is widely believed to have been a former leader of the movement that has destroyed oil pipelines, kidnapped petroleum company workers and fought government troops since 2006.

The group accuses Nigeria's government of doing nothing to end poverty in the delta even as the nation receives billions of dollars from oil found in the delta region.

Nigeria is a major oil supplier to the United States.

"I was arrested after the bomb attack to appease Nigerian officials who had placed significant pressure on South African authorities to arrest me," Okah said in an affidavit presented by his lawyer.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan's reaction to the bombings has "resulted in a serious embarrassment," he said. 

Unauthorised telephone interview

The Johannesburg Magistrate's Court heard on Thursday that Henry Okah had an unauthorised telephone interview with a television network while awaiting his bail application in prison.

"The accused had an interview with Al-Jazeera television network without authorisation from the police," State prosecutor Shaun Abrahams told the court.

This was one of the grounds the State would use to try and convince Magistrate Hein Louw to refuse the 45-year-old former Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) leader his bail.

A military uniform, data from computers and letters confiscated from Okah's home in Mondeor, south of Johannesburg, in the early hours of September 13, were also presented as evidence during the bail application.

In his affidavit, Okah denied any involvement in the October 1 dual car bombing that claimed 12 lives in Nigeria's capital Abuja.

"I am innocent and I challenge the State to give evidence linking me to the crime," his attorney Rudi Krause read from the 32-page document.

He was arrested in Johannesburg a day after the attacks, after being identified as being "the master mind behind the bombings".

Sympathised

MEND claimed responsibility for the attacks, but denied Okah had been involved.

Referring to e-mails sent to warn Nigerian authorities about the attacks, Okah said he was in South Africa at the time. He said the e-mails had come from the west African country.

A former marine engineer, Okah said although he sympathised with the struggle of the poor in the oil-rich Nigeria, he had never involved himself in any violence.

He faces charges of engaging in terrorist activities, conspiracy to engage in terrorist activity, and delivering, placing and detonating an explosive device.

He currently holds permanent residency in South Africa and earns a living through his security company.

According to his affidavit, police and the Army raided his house twice. These searches, one on September 13 and another on October 2, were illegal and didn't find any incriminating evidence.

Okah recounted how he and his family were made to stand outside their house while police seized their cellphones and computers. He also questioned the logic behind his arrest on September 13 and subsequent release.

Politically motivated

"If I were a dangerous terrorist, why then would police release me after their unlawful arrest?"

He claimed he was being persecuted due to his close ties with MEND, and that his arrest was politically motivated.

The Nigerian government could sentence him to death if he were to be extradited and found guilty of the crime.

Earlier the prosecution obtained a certificate from the National Director of Public Prosecutions giving it the go-ahead to charge Okah.

Throughout the day the document had been an issue of contention as the defence and the prosecution argued over its necessity before the bail application could start.

Magistrate Louw found the State failed to provide a certificate at the start of prosecution. Eventually the State managed to obtain the document and avoided the case being struck off the roll.

This could have put Okah at risk being re-arrested after the court ordered his release, the State said.

Okah was arrested in Angola three years ago and transferred to Nigerian custody. He was released as part of an amnesty programme offered to militants in the Niger Delta, the heart of Nigeria's oil industry.

His bail application continues on Friday.

- AP
Read more on:    mend  |  henry okah  |  nigeria  |  security
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