South African court convicts Henry Okah over 2010 Nigerian car bombings

By IndepthAfrica
In Nigeria
Jan 21st, 2013
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Henry Okah, who was found guilty of masterminding twin car bombings during independence celebrations in October 2010 in Nigeria. Photograph: AP

Henry Okah, who was found guilty of masterminding twin car bombings during independence celebrations in October 2010 in Nigeria. Photograph: AP

A South African court has convicted a Nigerian separatist leader of masterminding twin car bombings during a celebration in Nigeria.

Twelve people were killed and three dozen wounded in the double bombing in October 2010 during a celebration in Nigeria’s capital to mark 50 years of independence.

Henry Okah, who was found guilty on all counts, faces a minimum sentence of life in prison, said Shaun Abrahams, the prosecutor, who praised the verdict.

“This is clearly indicative that South Africa cannot be seen as a safe haven for international terrorists,” Abrahams told the Associated Press. He praised South African law enforcement for working well with foreign law enforcement “to make sure justice is done in Africa”.

Judge Neels Claassen said South Africa had proved Okah’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. He added that Okay’s failure to testify meant evidence against him remained uncontested.

Okah was arrested in Johannesburg a day after the bombings. He is a leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, known as Mend, which claimed responsibility for the blasts. Okah still faces charges relating to two explosions in March 2010 in the southern Nigerian city of Warri.

Sentencing is expected on 31 January. Okah was found guilty of engaging in terrorist activities, conspiracy to engage in terrorist activity, and delivering, placing, and detonating an explosive device.

Mend launched some of the most audacious attacks on foreign oil companies and contractors working in the Niger Delta, a region of swamps and mangroves about the size of Portugal.

After the October 2010 bombings, Mend largely went quiet as Okah and others faced charges.

Despite a 2009 government amnesty deal, kidnappings and attacks still regularly occur in the delta. And thefts of crude oil have continued to rise.

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