S.Africa court jails Nigerian for 24 years over bombings

26th March 2013, Comments 0 comments

A South African court on Tuesday jailed Nigerian national Henry Okah for 24 years after he was convicted of 13 terrorism charges over deadly twin bomb attacks in Abuja in 2010.

Twelve people were killed in the attacks as Nigeria was celebrating the 50th anniversary of its independence.

The state argued that Okah showed little remorse during the trial, and that his intentions in the bombings were to "obtain maximum casualties."

"Effectively, the accused Okah is therefore sentenced to 24 years imprisonment," said Judge Neels Claassen at the Johannesburg court.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which in 2010 was a well-equipped armed group fighting for a greater share of the Delta oil wealth, claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Okah, who has permanent residency in South Africa, has denied any involvement in the bombings and of being the leader of MEND, claiming the charges against him were politically motivated.

The 46-year-old was also found guilty over two explosions in March 2010 in the southern Nigerian city of Warri, a major hub in the oil-rich Delta region.

State prosecutor Shaun Abrahams told AFP that the sentence included 12 years each for the Warri and Abuja attacks. He was also sentenced to 10 years for being a threat to South Africa, a term that will run concurrently.

Abrahams said the prosecution -- which had asked for a maximum of life in prison -- will consider appealing the sentence.

Okah is thought to be the first foreign national to be tried for terrorism in South Africa. He has been in custody since his arrest in October 2010, a day after the Abuja bombings.

Okah did not testify during trial, prompting the judge to say that his failure to take the stand meant the evidence against him remained uncontested.

He has had several run-ins with the law. In September 2007 he was arrested for arms and explosives trafficking in Angola and later extradited to Nigeria.

Police identified him as "an international gun-runner and a major oil bunkerer (thief) in the Niger Delta."


© 2013 AFP

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