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Pretoria - Nigerian terrorist Henry Okah was whisked off in the early hours one morning last month to a high-security prison in Kokstad, KwaZulu-Natal, following another foiled “escape bid” – in which, it is said, he and four other inmates planned to use firearms, bombs and a helicopter to assist them.
It came to light in papers before the Pretoria High Court that Okah’s alleged escape plans involved the smuggling of steel hacksaw blades into the New Lock Prison in Pretoria, which were to be used to saw the grill doors of the prison cells.
These hacksaw blades were, according to correctional services, smuggled into the prison by visitors to these inmates.
The escape plan was apparently foiled at the last moment after the grill doors of four cells had nearly been sawn through.
This, correctional services said, necessitated moving Okah and the other prisoners involved in the alleged escape bid.
They said they regarded Okah as a high-security risk prisoner.
Okah, who is serving 24 years for 13 counts of terrorism, was sent to New Lock Prison after he allegedly tried to escape from Joburg’s Leeuwkop Prison in February with Jaco Steyn, the notorious Sunday rapist, and several other inmates.
These details emerged this week in a failed urgent application brought before the Pretoria High Court by Okah’s wife Azuka and his lawyer Idemudia Uriesi.
The two claim he “disappeared” from New Lock Prison and they had no idea where he is.
Uriesi said he needed to consult with his client, but could not find him. He heard rumours that he had been taken to Kokstad, but could not confirm this.
Correctional services said this was untrue, as they had informed Uriesi where his client was and he was welcome to consult with him.
Uriesi, in a statement before court, asked that Okah immediately be returned to New Lock Prison. He said he was worried about his client’s mental and physical well-being.
Uriesi said he was simply taken to an undisclosed prison without him or Okah’s wife being informed.
He said he needed to consult with him regarding his disciplinary hearings and his pending appeal against his 24-year sentence.
Uriesi has in the past also approached the Johannesburg and the Pretoria high courts on several occasions regarding his client’s rights.
This was after Okah had been locked up in solitary confinement and was kept in leg-irons after alleged transgressions in prison.
All these applications failed on technical grounds.
The lawyer, in the latest application, which was dismissed by Judge Neil Tuchten, accused correctional services of malice and of having a hidden agenda for his client.
But the department’s director of legal services, Reuben Mbuli, said Okah was moved to Kokstad for security reasons, as information was received that he was again involved in a planned prison break.
He and other inmates were transferred from New Lock to Kokstad on March 13, when it was discovered that the bars in their cells were nearly sawn through.
Mbuli said that according to information from the other inmates, Okah was the brains and financier behind that planned escape.
He said the department was within its rights to move Okah and nobody had the right to question this.