State successful in Henry Okah case as sentence, convictions reinstated

Nigerian terror suspect Henry Okah appears in court in Johannesburg. (File, AP)
Nigerian terror suspect Henry Okah appears in court in Johannesburg. (File, AP)

Cape Town – Convicted terrorist Henry Okah's 24-year prison sentence and convictions have been reinstated after the Constitutional Court on Friday set aside the Supreme Court of Appeal's order overturning the Warri bombing convictions, which led to a reduction in his sentence.

Okah was originally sentenced in March 2013 in the South Gauteng High Court after being convicted on 13 counts of terrorism, including engaging in terrorist activities, conspiracy to engage in terrorist activities, and delivering, placing and detonating an explosive device, relating to two car bombs detonated in Abuja, Nigeria, on October 1, 2010, the anniversary of the country's independence.

Twelve people were killed and 36 were injured.

One person was killed and 11 seriously injured in another bombing in Warri on March 15, 2010, at a post-amnesty dialogue meeting.

In both bombings, two car bombs went off minutes apart. The cars were parked in close proximity to each other, News24 reported at the time.

Okah, a Nigerian citizen who has been a permanent resident in South Africa since 2007, was found to be the leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta and was convicted for terrorist acts under the Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorist and Related Activities Act.

Special court entries

Four charges relating to the Warri bombings, during which Okah was in Nigeria, were overturned on appeal in the Supreme Court of Appeal on the basis that the act confers extra-territorial jurisdiction only for the financing of terrorism, and that it did not establish jurisdiction for a South African court to convict for offences committed outside of the country.

At the end of his High Court trial, Okah applied for three special entries on its record for alleged proceeding irregularities, which included the State's failure to inform him of his right to consular access.

ALSO READ: Okah moved after failed prison escapes

The application was refused, and was also unsuccessful in the Supreme Court of Appeal.

The Constitutional Court held that the High Court had erred in not allowing the special entry regarding consular access, but that the irregularity did not lead to a failure of justice. It granted this portion of his leave to appeal and the special entry was made.

However, Okah's appeal against his entire conviction on the basis of this special entry was dismissed.

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