Okah loses bid to view evidence

2010-10-22 23:04

Johannesburg - The bid by a suspected Nigerian bombing conspirator to view evidence used by the prosecution to link him to the attack was dealt a blow by the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court on Friday.

Handing down judgment, magistrate Hein Louw only granted Henry Okah's defence team access to the hard drives of computers and cellphones confiscated from his home during an October 2 raid.

"I order that a mirror copy image of computer hard drives, cellphone hard drives and memories be made available to the applicant in no later than three working days," Louw said.

He refused to give the defence permission to access information underpinning the State's latest revelation in Okah's bail application.

"In due course the defence will have opportunity to access such information," Louw ordered.

In evidence presented to the court on Thursday, the prosecution alleged that the 45-year old former marine engineer had been in contact with the people who co-ordinated the October 1 car bombings in Abuja, Nigeria which killed 12 people and injured 36.

"Prior to the detonation of the two improvised explosive devices on 1 October in Abuja, two vehicles, namely a Honda and a Mazda 626, were purchased in Lagos on the instruction of the accused, by persons complicit in the crime," State prosecutor Shaun Abrahams said.

Reading from an affidavit compiled by investigating officer Lieutenant Colonel Graeme Zeeman, Abrahams said Okah had been in contact with Chima Orlu, one of two men wanted in connection with the bombings.

While in South Africa, Okah had allegedly instructed his co-conspirators to drive the cars to where the attacks would be launched.

The two cars were loaded with dynamite and parked on a road near a prominent hotel in Abuja, where Independence Day celebrations were taking place.

An SMS Orlu allegedly sent which read: "Done, tell them to leave", was forwarded to Okah on the day of the October 1 attacks.

Put your money where your mouth is

In a responding affidavit Okah denied his involvement in the attacks and asked the court to grant him permission to view the evidence.

"Put your money where your mouth is. Show us the evidence," Okah's lawyer Rudi Krause said before the ruling by Louw.

"What Zeeman is saying is a lie."

However Abrahams said granting Okah access to the information would put the defence in a position to influence Zeeman's investigation.

"If he has access to people we have here, he can find out who they have been contacting," Abrahams told the court in opposing the application.

Okah's phoning television station Al Jazeera while he was in a Johannesburg prison, meant he could contact anyone.

He said the State would give Okah access to information found on his hard drive and a copy of records from his cellphone.

He maintained that the police investigation was only 22-days-old and that letting Okah's lawyers "peek over the shoulders of investigating authorities" would prejudice their case.

Okah's close ties to some senior officials in the Nigerian government also placed him in a position to interfere with the investigation being conducted in his home country and in South Africa.

Okah faces charges of engaging in terrorist activities, conspiracy to do so, and delivering, placing and detonating an explosive device.

Okah has denied involvement in the bombings and also denied that he was a senior member of the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (Mend).

The fact that in one of her letters to the media, his wife, Azuka Okah referred to him as the leader of Mend was used as circumstantial evidence that he was indeed a leader of the rebel group.

"I think she did it for clarity, because a lot of the media refer to me as a leader of Mend," Okah said in his defence.

Using the alias, Jomo Gbomo, Okah allegedly sent emails to media and the west African country, warning about the attacks.

He had testified during his bail application, but failed to answer questions relating to a list of high calibre weapons, including anti-tank land mines, machine guns and air missiles found in one of his diaries.

The State alleged that Okah had intended to buy the listed weapons as they matched those found in a quotation.

He dismissed this, saying the list was merely notes he had written while reading warfare books - "for intellectual purposes".

His bail application resumes on November 4.