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South Africa postpones Nigeria terror suspect trial

Published on 30/01/2012

The man accused of masterminding two deadly bombings at Nigeria's 50th independence celebrations will face trial in October after a South African court Monday delayed his case by nine months.

Nigerian national Henry Okah is facing trial in South Africa, where he has permanent residence, on charges that he orchestrated the twin car bombings — which killed 12 people in Abuja on October 1, 2010 — from his home in Johannesburg.

Lawyers for both sides said Monday they needed more time to prepare their arguments.

“Neither the prosecution nor the defence was in a condition to continue with the trial at the moment, so we agreed to postpone it,” Okah’s lawyer Rudi Krause told AFP.

Dressed in jeans, a black t-shirt and a blazer, Okah looked visibly thinner than his first court appearance following his arrest the day after the bombings. He was denied bail last year and has been in jail awaiting trial.

He also faces terrorism charges in connection with two explosions on March 15, 2010 in the southern Nigerian city of Warri, a major hub of the country’s oil-rich Delta region.

South Africa is trying Okah because Nigerian authorities have not applied for his extradition, said prosecutor Shaun Abrahams.

“We have extra-territorial jurisdiction. It is part of our international obligation” to try cases of terrorism, he told journalists outside the courtroom.

Okah has denied involvement in the attacks, which were claimed by the militant Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND).

Prosecutors accuse Okah of being the head of MEND, which says it is fighting to give the people of the Delta more access to the region’s oil wealth.

Okah has denied being the group’s leader.