Henry Okah to be jailed for 24 years

"These are serious charges…. Effectively, the accused [Okah] is therefore sentenced to 24 years' imprisonment," Judge Neels Claassen said, handing down sentence.

"The accused has not accepted any responsibility for the crimes committed, nor has he shown remorse."

The Nigerian was also found unfit to operate weapons. Claassen added it would be wrong for the court to turn a blind eye to the fact that the "struggle in Nigeria was for a good cause", stating the importance to balance Okah's political intentions with the violent nature of the crimes.

He found three "compelling circumstances" that would justify a lesser sentence.

"First and most importantly are that the offences were motivated by a political desire to improve the community in the Niger Delta," Claassen said.

He added the fact that Okah did not have a criminal record, and the fact that he is a husband and father of four children who would "suffer" also counted in mitigation.

"The remaining factor is the fact that to all intents and purposes the accused was regarded by those in Nigeria as a strong leader."

Claassen said he had many months to consider what the appropriate sentence would be and said it was not an "easy matter to pass an appropriate sentence" on.

Treaties
"To impose a life sentence would be totally disappropriate [inappropriate] to the seriousness of the crimes," he said.

Claassen said with treaties signed by the United Nations it was important to impose a sentence that would prohibit South Africa being seen as a safe haven for terrorists.

"Therefore the duty of this court in imposing the proper sentence is to take into account the interest of the community worldwide in making South Africa unpalatable to any international terrorism," he added.

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.

The charges related 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 injured.

The second bombing took place in Warri on March 15 2010 at a post amnesty dialogue meeting. One person was killed and 11 seriously injured.

In both bombings, two car bombs went off minutes apart in both places. The cars were parked in close proximity to each other.

Claassen sentenced Okah to 12 years imprisonment for each of the bombings and 10 years for the threats made to the South African government after his arrest in October 2010. The 10 years would run concurrently with the 24 years.

Caught the kisses
As Okah was set to leave, he turned around and blew kisses to his visibly emotional wife Azuka. She smiled as she jokingly caught the kisses, before she blew him kisses as police officers escorted him back to the holding cells. Nineteen police officers were present in court during the proceedings on Tuesday.

In January, during judgment Claassen said the State had proved Okah's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and his failure to testify meant the evidence against him remained uncontested. Okah denied any involvement, claiming the charges against him were politically motivated.

The State and Okah's defence indicated they would appeal the sentence.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Phindi Louw declined to comment on whether the State would appeal for a heavier sentence to be imposed. – Sapa

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Sapa
Guest Author
Advertisting

Odd drop in how Covid-19 numbers grow

As the country hunkers down for a second week of lockdown, how reliable is the data available and will it enable a sound decision for whether South Africans can leave their homes on April 16?

Mail & Guardian needs your help

Our job is to help give you the information we all need to participate in building this country, while holding those in power to account. But now the power to help us keep doing that is in your hands

Press Releases

New energy mix on the cards

REI4P already has and will continue to yield thousands of employment opportunities

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world

SAB Zenzele special AGM rescheduled to March 25 2020

New voting arrangements are being made to safeguard the health of shareholders