19 suspects appear in court on terrorism charges

2018-10-18 06:02
PHOTO: ANDILE SITHOLESAPS and Metro police outside Verulam family court await the suspects’ arrival.

PHOTO: ANDILE SITHOLESAPS and Metro police outside Verulam family court await the suspects’ arrival.

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A MAN who was held captive in a house in Durban escaped from two botched kidnapping incidents two weeks before he went missing. This is according to one of the victim’s close friends, who wished to remain anonymous.

A total of 19 suspects appeared at the Verulam Magistrate’s Court on Monday and Tuesday this week in connection with alleged kidnapping and alleged terrorism activities following a successful arrest made on October 5.

“Two weeks before he went missing, he told us that he saw unknown men driving a private car following him near his home. He told us that he ran away and he escaped [them]. When we heard that he was missing, we suspected that it was the same guys who had been following him who were responsible for his disappearance,” the friend of the victim said.

An integrated team involving the Hawks, crime intelligence, forensic unit, National Prosecuting Authority and other justice department structures worked on a lead and found the victim inside a dungeon in a house in Durban.

“All we want is justice. We want to know why our friend was kidnapped. His wife and children are still shocked. He was missing for about a week. All of us we were shocked because we did not know where to find him,” the friend said.

The victim, whose name cannot be revealed, is currently under police protection in hospital.

The suspects were arrested in connection with a series of discoveries of several explosive devices in Durban as well as the deadly Imam Hussain Mosque attack in Ottawa early this year. The case was adjourned on Monday because some of the suspects required a translator.

A joint statement from the Hawks and Ministry of Police said that, between March and August this year, Durban and surrounding areas were plagued with several incidents whereby explosive devises were placed and detonated, in addition to numerous hoax calls.

The media and members of the public were barred from attending the court proceedings because it is a “sensitive matter” and public involvement might jeopardise the case. The magistrate made a ruling that the court proceedings will be conducted on camera. The courtroom where the suspects appeared had posters stuck across the glass doors and windows to prevent the public from observing what was happening inside.

Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi addressed the media on Monday, saying: “The victim, whose identity cannot be revealed due to security reasons, was taken into hospital and is co-operating very well. There is also a bomb that we managed to recover and there’s a lot of stuff that we are still working on. This is a very sensitive investigation and people need to take note of the mere fact that we are not actually giving out [information], the culprits must come first. Once we finalise everything, surely everybody will be able to understand what is happening. For now everybody must bear with us and give us space to do [our] investigation.”

Nineteen suspects have been arrested with Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi stating: “I think it is such a good number and a good arrest that we made. The country should be proud of what we have achieved.” During the arrest, various items were confiscated, including a ready-made incendiary device. Police also managed to rescue the victim, who was chained up and malnourished.

Mulaudzi said the suspects are facing charges of murder, attempted murder, extortion, kidnapping, contravention of the Explosive Act, Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorist and Related Activities Act [Pocdatara] and arson. Mulaudzi added that identity parades will take place soon and that was another reason media and the public were barred from the court proceedings. The Hawks could not confirm the nationality and ages of the suspects, saying the matter was still under investigation.

Police Minister General Bheki Cele welcomed the arrests of the suspects and congratulated the multi-disciplinary team for tirelessly working to ensure peace and stability is restored in Durban.

The National commissioner of police, General Khehla Sithole, and the national head of the Hawks, Lieutenant General Godfrey Lebeya, also congratulated the team.

The suspects are due back in court on Monday.

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