Terror-accused Henry Okah denied bail

Nigerian terror-accused Henry Okah was denied bail by the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court on Friday.

In his testimony, Okah failed to convince the court that he was not the leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend).

“The most damning evidence is that in her hand writing, his wife refers to him as the leader of Mend,” Magistrate Hein Louw said.

“He is the leader of Mend on balance of probability.”

He faces terrorism-related charges for his alleged involvement in the Independence Day bombings in Abuja on October 1.

Louw also said that Okah’s defence had not presented any evidence that his life would be in danger.

In his affidavit Okah said that he had to undergo a spine operation, which could only be done in a private hospital. The state in response said arrangements could be made for the operation to be conducted in a private hospital under police guard.

Misled the court
Louw found that Okah had misled the court during his cross examination.

“The accused was untruthful and he lied to the court,” Louw said.

His failure to give a convincing answer explaining why he had compiled a list of high caliber weapons in one of his diaries was also questionable, the court found.

The applicant has not convinced the court on balance of probability that he will be acquitted [when the matter goes to trial], Louw found.

Last week, Okah’s bail application had been postponed because Louw said he still needed to listen to transcribed portions of telephone recordings between Okah and his alleged co-conspirator in the bomb blasts before deciding whether to grant Okah bail.

Okah has been in detention for 38 days, since his arrest at his Johannesburg home a day after the twin explosions in the Nigerian capital. He is charged with masterminding the attacks that killed 12 people during Independence Day celebrations.

The prosecution has previously argued that Okah is a terrorist and has opposed his bail application on the grounds that he is a dangerous man and could compromise public safety if released. But Krause has said the state cannot link Okah with the bomb blasts.

Okah’s trial on terrorism-related charges will be heard again on February 11 next year, although his attorney, Rudi Krause said he would immediately appeal Louw’s bail ruling.

Not a flight risk
Speaking to the Mail & Guardian after Louw’s verdict, Okah’s wife, Azuka said she had expected her husband to get bail and was “shocked” when he wasn’t.

“My husband was not a flight risk — he doesn’t want to live the life of a fugitive,” she said.

Asked how she felt about unwittingly incriminating her husband as leader of Mend in evidence placed before the court, Azuka Okah explained that she did so in 2008, at a time when Okah was not well-known but was seeking international attention for his detention in solitary confinement in Nigeria.

“There have been many leaders of Mend,” she added.

It would be a tough Christmas for her and the four young Okah children with her husband behind bars, Azuka Okah said. “I will just have to keep them preoccupied.”

And what if her husband did indeed conspire to murder 12 people?

“I understand the gravity of what he is charged with, but because he is my husband, I support him. If he is guilty, that would be unthinkable, terrible.”

Mend, which has been fighting for greater control of the proceeds of Nigeria’s vast oil revenues since 2006, claimed responsibility for the October 1 attacks. — Sapa and M&G reporter

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Lionel Faull
Lionel Faull began his career as a journalist at the Mail & Guardian newspaper in South Africa before joining the country's pre-eminent non-profit investigations team, amaBhungane, in 2011. He has been working with Finance Uncovered since January 2017, joining as a full-time senior reporter a year later

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