Sentencing starts for convicted terrorist Henry Okah

Flanked by 12 police officers, Okah, dressed in a red and blue chequered T-shirt, entered the dock on Monday and turned to blow a kiss to his wife Azuka, who was seated in the third row, before taking his place.

The court heard Okah would apply for special entries to be made on the record. JP Marais, for Okah, told the court that one of the witnesses he intended on calling only arrived in South African on Monday morning because the flight was delayed.

He said he consulted with Okah last week, but did not finish it. State prosecutor Shaun Abrahams said a witness the state intended calling arrived in the country on Sunday and he did not have enough time to prepare the replying affidavit.

Judge Neels Claassen said proceedings should continue. Marais asked for a short postponement to tie down consultations with Okah, after Okah said he wanted to speak to his legal team. One of the witnesses Okah intended on calling sat in the front row of the public gallery.

On January 21, Okah was found guilty on 13 counts of terrorism, including engaging in terrorist activities, conspiracy to engage in terrorist activities, and delivering, placing, and detonating an explosive device.

Car bombs
The charges related to two car bombs in Abuja, Nigeria, in which 12 people were killed and 36 injured on October 1 2010, the anniversary of the country's independence.

The court heard Okah intended calling at least five people from the United States and Nigeria to come and testify on his behalf. During judgment in January, Claassen said the state proved Okah's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and that his failure to testify meant the evidence against him remained uncontested.

He found no evidence that Okah did not head the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, which claimed responsibility for the blasts.

During the trial, Okah denied any involvement in the blasts and said the charges against him were politically motivated. On Monday morning, the main road outside the court was closed to traffic. Police were monitoring who was allowed to pass.

On the court's second floor, police and security guards conducted body searches and looked through bags twice before letting people enter the room.

Claassen adjourned the case to 11.30am. – Sapa

Sapa
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