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S.African court delays Okah sentencing

A South African court Friday postponed by a month sentencing a Nigerian national Henry Okah who is convicted of 13 terrorism charges, including the 2010 independence day bombings in Abuja.

“I will postpone this matter for purposes of hearing arguments in mitigation or aggravation for sentencing,” High Court Judge Neels Claassen said.

Sentencing will run three days from February 28 through March 4.

“That’s the final postponement,” said the judge.

Okah was found guilty of masterminding attacks including twin car bombings in Abuja on October 1, 2010, and two explosions in March 2010 in the southern Nigerian city of Warri, a major hub of the oil-rich Delta region.

He faces a minimum term of life in prison.

He intends to bring five witnesses from Nigeria and the United States.

But prosecution was opposed to the deferment.

“I am disappointed that the matter didn’t proceed today, it’s just basically justice being delayed,” Shaun Abrahams told reporters after the application was granted.

The 46-year-old, who has permanent residency in South Africa, was arrested at his Johannesburg home on October 2, 2010, a day after the twin car bombings that killed 12 people.

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 that took place as Nigeria celebrated the 50-year anniversary of its independence.

Okah has denied being the leader of MEND, and involvement in the Abuja blasts, claiming the charges were politically motivated.

MEND has a history of staging fierce attacks on oil facilities and kidnapping expatriate workers in the Delta region.

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.