Abuja bombings: Okah undermined South Africa’s criminal justice, says prosecutor

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Nigerian former militant leader Henry Okah was a dangerous man and could compromise public safety if released on bail, the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court heard on Friday.

According to submissions by a South Africa’s prosecution officer, the active militant has undermined South Africa’s criminal justice system when he granted interviews with Arab Television outfit, Al-Jezeera  on the eve of his arrest following Abuja’s dual bombing

“If he’s released he could disturb public peace and security,” state prosecutor Shaun Abrahams told the court.

Reading from an affidavit submitted by the state to oppose bail, he said Okah was still an active leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (Mend).

If released Okah, with his connections and money, could “intimidate or eliminate witnesses” who were known to him.

“We will have to pay off many people,” read an extract from Okah’s diary.

The diary was included as evidence against the 45-year-old father of four.

“Mobilise our men, we leave today with God on our side,” Abrahams read from the diary.

The state would oppose bail for Okah on grounds including the fact that he was likely to endanger other people, he was extremely wealthy and connected, and that he had allegedly misrepresented his business affairs to the country’s home affairs department.

“Okah undermined the criminal justice system when he was interviewed by television station al-Jazeera while awaiting his bail application in prison”. Police had not authorised the interview” the submission include.

Prosecution of the former Militant leader and an ex stakeholder in the Delta struggle, Henry Okah had commenced on Thursday with the prosecutors alleging that the  former Nigerian rebel group leader was in contact with the orchestrators of the Independence day bomb blasts in Abuja both immediately before and after the attacks.

Henry Okah, ex-leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) which claimed responsibility for October 1 twin car bombings, was arrested in Johannesburg the day after the blasts killed 12 people.

Speaking at Okah’s bail hearing, prosecutor Shaun Abrahams read an affidavit by the lead police investigator in the case that said that Okah, 45, who denies any involvement, had a “leading role in the explosions”.

“The persons responsible for the execution of the bomb attacks were in direct communication with the applicant immediately before the explosives were detonated and immediately after the detonation went off,” the affidavit said.

Police also said they seized incriminating items from Okah’s house when he was arrested, including an invoice from a Chinese arms company for guns and grenade launchers and a journal that Abrahams argued links Okah to the attacks.

“God is with us. We will fight to the finish,” said one diary entry read out in court.

But Okah, who has permanent residence in South Africa, argued he was arrested as part of a “devious political ploy” by Nigerian politicians.

“My arrest has nothing to do with a proper police investigation but rather… a devious political ploy by politicians in Nigeria to gain the upper hand over their political opponents,” Okah said in an affidavit read out to the court by his lawyer Rudi Krause.

“I simply deny any involvement of any kind in the bombing attacks,” he said.

“The fact of the matter is simply that I was arrested after the bomb attacks to appease the Nigerian government.”

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s handling of the attacks has caused the leader “serious embarrassment”, Okah added.

The bail hearing is set to continue Friday morning.

Okah has been in South African custody since his arrest. He was granted his own cell after the court ruled that his life might be at risk in jail.

Three years ago Okah was arrested in Angola and transferred to Nigerian custody.

He moved to Johannesburg after being released as part of an amnesty programme offered to militants in the Niger Delta, the heart of Nigeria’s oil industry.