Okah’s preliminary trial date set

2011-06-21 12:19

Nigerian terror-accused Henry Okah’s trial was postponed, and a preliminary trial date set in the Johannesburg Magistrates Court today.

State prosecutor Shaun Abrahams and Okah’s lawyer Rudi Krause agreed on August 24 for his next court appearance, and a preliminary trail date of January 30 next year.

Magistrate Hein Louw postponed the case for further investigation, and so that an indictment could be served.

Krause also “respectfully requested” that this be the final postponement, as Okah needed time to prepare for the trial.

He mentioned his client’s medical treatment and current living conditions to Louw.

Okah was scheduled to have a back operation on October 14. He had however not seen a doctor since he was arrested, Krause said.

“He has still not received medical attention. [The requests] have simply been ignored by the department of correctional services.”

Krause further objected to Okah’s solitary confinement at Johannesburg Prison. Okah was allegedly being prevented from speaking to anyone, including the guards. He slept on a “concrete slab with a little foam mattress, and his room has no windows”.

Okah apparently asked Krause to prolong Tuesday’s court proceedings so he could see some sunlight. “He literally doesn’t see sunlight,” Krause said.

He presented Abrahams and Louw with a list of the 103 witnesses he intended calling, many of them from Nigeria. Okah required them to be subpoenaed for the purpose of the trail, Krause said.

“By the list of witnesses it appears to be a three- or four-year trial,” Abrahams said.

He added that the provincial commissioner of correctional services had put “measures in place” to ensure Okah got the required medical treatment.
Louw endorsed Okah’s need for medical attention.

Okah intended to petition the Supreme Court of Appeal after it dismissed his application for leave to appeal the decision to deny him bail on June 17. It was his third attempt at bail, which he lost when additional charges were brought against him.

Okah’s previous attempts to get bail on October 14 and 19 at the Johannesburg Magistrates Court were both denied.

Okah is accused of masterminding two car bombings in Abuja, Nigeria on October 1, the country’s Independence Day, last year. Twelve people were killed and 36 injured. He was arrested in Johannesburg the following day.

He was allegedly leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), that claimed responsibility for blasts. Okah was charged with engaging in terrorist activities, conspiracy to engage in terrorist activity and delivering, placing and detonating an explosive device.

Abrahams said additional charges of terrorism and terror financing were being added to the charge sheet. These related to a March 15 bombing in Warri, Nigeria last year. There was also a “possible” charge of money laundering.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga previously said South Africa had extra-territorial jurisdiction, which allowed it to try any person for an offence committed outside the country’s borders.

Okah has denied being involved with Mend, although a letter by his wife presented in court referred to him as being the group’s leader.

The former militant leader left Nigeria for Johannesburg after being released from prison in July 2009 while facing treason and gun-running charges.

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