High bail for ‘kingpin’

2018-11-28 15:56
Alleged kingpin Farhad Hoomer hides his face while being escorted out of the Verulam Magistrate’s Court by his attorney, Yusuf Cassim, yesterday.PHOTO: Kerushun Pillay

Alleged kingpin Farhad Hoomer hides his face while being escorted out of the Verulam Magistrate’s Court by his attorney, Yusuf Cassim, yesterday.PHOTO: Kerushun Pillay (Kerushun Pillay)

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The men accused of being members of an Isis cell and allegedly attacking a mosque in Verulam have all been granted bail.

Bail amounts ranged from R3 000 to R200 000 with three of the men released on warning.

Magistrate Irfaan Khalil said he was unconvinced by the strength of the state’s case at this stage.

In a lengthy bail judgment on Tuesday he noted that while raising suspicion, some strands of evidence required leaps too drastic to link the men to the alleged crimes.

He granted bail to the 11 accused after a marathon bail application at the Verulam Magistrate’s Court, ending their 53-day prison stay.

The 11 face a raft of charges, including murder, attempted murder, arson, extortion, and charges related to terrorism.

Nineteen men were initially arrested in connection with the mosque incident, where worshipper Abbas Essop was murdered at the Imam Hussein Mosque in Ottawa, Verulam. Two others were stabbed.

An explosive device was detonated at the mosque during the incident.

They are also allegedly linked to explosive devices being found at various Durban businesses, including Woolworths outlets.

The state has since dropped charges against seven accused, and Goolam Mohammed Rashid Haffejee was previously granted R100 000 bail.

Accused Farhad Hoomer, who is alleged by the state to be the brains of the operation, was on Tuesday granted bail of R200 000. Ahmad Haffejee, who is allegedly linked to international extremist groups on social media, was granted bail of R150 000.

Mohammed Akbar, Muhammed Adil Sobrun, Omar Iddy and Ndikumana Shabani Umande were each given R5 000 bail.

Abubakar Ali and Abasi Juma were granted bail of R3 000.

Thabit Said Mwenda, Mohammed Seidth and Amani Mayan were released on warning, with the magistrate saying the only evidence linking them to the charges at this stage was that they were at the Durban home which was raided by police, and where an incendiary device was found, on the night of the arrests.

The sound of family members crying with relief when bail was granted emanated from the packed gallery.

As part of their conditions for bail all the men will have to report to a Durban police station once a week, and they may not leave KwaZulu-Natal without written consent from investigators in the case.

They also have to surrender their passports to investigators, and cannot apply for new ones.

Khalil said some evidence the state presented required logical leaps to connect the accused to the alleged incidents, such as cellphone signals of two accused placing them near the mosque on the day of the attack.

“Even considering the totality of evidence, it would be too drastic a conclusion,” he said.

“What it does do is create a suspicion ... nothing more.”

Khalil also said while there was evidence that fingered the accused in identity parades, he said the state had not indicated precisely what role each individual was alleged to have played.

He said “bits and pieces of loose evidence raised a nagging suspicion” of Isis-related activity, but he was not satisfied on the evidence as a whole.

Khalil did not believe the accused would — as the state argued — abscond and fail to stand trial or interfere with witnesses.

He dismissed arguments that their release on bail would cause a strong public outcry.

He accepted in handing down judgment that most accused were family breadwinners, and took into consideration the fact that the case might only be finalised in two years’ time.

“Investigations may only be completed late-2019 or early 2020 ... The case may take a year to conclude ... There may be more arrests made.”

He added: “The state’s case may be strengthened [after investigation], but the opposite could also be true.”

An elated family member of one of the accused — Muhammed Adil Sobrun — said the last two months had been traumatic for all the families.

“We’re just happy they’re all out.”

Azad Seedat, the chairperson of the Imam Hussein mosque, said he accepted the decision.

“This is just the beginning and I believe the real evidence will come out at trial. That is the big one.”

He added that the mosque had received tremendous support during these trying times.

The case has been noted for its sensitivity, and no one in the gallery was allowed to carry recording devices.

Khalil’s bail judgment, however, was broadcast live on TV stations.

The matter has now been adjourned to February next year.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  verulam mosque attack
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