Court dismisses Okah’s bail appeal

A Johannesburg court on Friday rejected a bail appeal for Henry Okah, the suspected ex-militant leader accused of ordering twin car bombings on Nigeria’s independence day.

Judge Flip Hatting said the court had “valid reasons” to deny the bail, after Okah argued he should be released on health grounds.

Prosecutors say Okah is the leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), the Nigerian militant organisation that has claimed scores of kidnappings and attacks on oil installations in recent years.

Okah was arrested at his home in Johannesburg on October 2 last year, one day after the car bombs killed 12 people in Abuja and has since been in custody.

He has denied organising the attack and claims he has never been the leader of Mend, which claimed responsibility for the blasts.

The fourth of nine children of a senior navy officer, Okah is said to have turned to militant action following the 1995 execution of rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, who pushed for justice for the Niger Delta region.

Despite being the centre of the one of the world’s largest oil industries, the Niger Delta remains deeply impoverished. Oil spills have also left the region badly polluted. — AFP

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