Lawyer rejects claims

2018-10-31 15:37

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Police had pounced on a prayer meeting, and not on a meeting of an Islamic State (Isis) cell, when they arrested a group of men for the attack on a Verulam mosque.

That is according to the lawyer acting for accused Farhad Hoomer, who hit out at allegations that the group is sympathetic to the Isis.

During arguments in support of Hoomer’s bail application advocate Jimmy Howse said police had arrested a large group at the prayer service, including Hoomer’s 12-year-old son, who spent eight hours in custody while police decided who to charge. Howse said the group was there observing a prayer held by accused Thabit Said Mwenda, a priest who had just moved into the home on Fulham Road, Reservoir Hills.

The investigating officer, Warrant Officer A. Kwezi Chonco, has alleged that the group has ties with Isis, and “communicates freely” with international Isis cells. Eleven accused are applying for bail at the Verulam Magistrate’s Court, out of a group of an initial 19 who were arrested in connection with the attack on the Imam Hussein Mosque in Ottawa, Verulam, where worshipper Abbas Essop was murdered. Two others, Imam Ali Nchiyane and caretaker Mohammed Ali, were stabbed.

Seven accused have since had charges withdrawn against them and another, Goolam Mohammed Rashid Haffejee, was granted R100 000 bail.

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

The accused allegedly extorted money from Durban businesses, threatening them with explosive devices. They had also allegedly placed explosive devices at several Woolworths outlets in Durban.

The state alleged the home was owned by Hoomer and was being used as a “training” camp, where Isis flags and “training DVDs” were allegedly recovered. But Howse said Hoomer did not own the house, which was actually part of a deceased person’s estate.

He said the state was not specific on whose digital devices Isis materials — like how to build a bomb — were found.

“Regarding the flags, these are not exclusive to Isis,” he said.

“It has logos and slogans that pre-dates the existence of Isis. They contain non-identical Islamic writings ... The flag is not illegal and not specific to Isis.”

He said the state has used “innocuous” material to link the group to Isis. “Is this material really a basis for saying this man is a terrorist?” Howse said.

He disputed the state’s evidence that linked Hoomer to the mosque attack incident, saying the only thing the state could say for sure was that a cellphone belonging to his late wife, Nadia, was tracked in the general area on the day.

He added that the vehicle at the scene of crime — a white Hyundai Getz — that the investigating officer identified as belonging to Hoomer was also incorrect.

“The vehicle police recovered from the Fulham Road home [as being Hoomer’s] was actually a white Hyundai i20. It’s a totally different car.

“And he [Hoomer] didn’t even own it in May, on the day of the attack. He only bought it in July.”

Howse also noted that the state had not even charged the accused for the Woolworths bombing incidents, yet the incidents are cited in the investigating officer’s affidavit.

Magistrate Irfaan Khalil adjourned the case to next week, when the other defence lawyers and the state will present their arguments on bail.

Earlier in the day the court refused an application by state prosecutor Adele Barnard for the state to re-open its case to rebut claims in the accused’s affidavits filed in response to investigating officer Chonco’s evidence.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  verulam mosque attack

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