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Okah still has faith in justice system

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IOL news oct 9  henry okha

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Nigerian Henry Okah was convicted on 13 charges of terrorist activities in the High Court in Johannesburg. File photo: Timothy Bernard.

Johannesburg - Nigerian Henry Okah, who has been convicted on 13 counts of terrorist activities, said on Thursday he has not lost faith in the South African justice system.

“I do not think anything funny has happened.... I just believe that the judge arrived at his conclusion based on the information that was placed before him,” he said.

“I still haven't lost faith in the South African justice system, so I will continue to test it.”

He was speaking to journalists in the High Court in Johannesburg before the start of sentencing procedures.

On January 21, Judge Neels Claassen found Okah guilty of engaging in terrorist activities, conspiracy to engage in terrorist activity, and delivering, placing, and detonating an explosive device.

He said the State had proved Okah's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Claassen said Okah's failure to testify meant the evidence against him remained uncontested.

Twelve people were killed and 36 injured in two car bombs in Abuja, Nigeria, on October 1, 2010, the anniversary of the country's independence. Okah was arrested in Johannesburg the next day.

He was also found guilty on terrorism charges relating to two explosions in March 2010 in the southern Nigerian city of Warri.

Claassen found no evidence that Okah did not head the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, which claimed responsibility for the blasts.

Okah denied any involvement in the blasts and said the charges against him were politically motivated.

South Africa tried him as part of its international obligation, as the Nigerian authorities had not applied for his extradition, according to the prosecution.

Security at the Johannesburg court was increased on Thursday. The main street outside the court was closed to traffic and police officers were stationed on street corners. About 12 police officers and four security guards were outside the courtroom on the second floor. Inside the court about 16 heavily-armed officers monitored proceedings.

Wearing a blue, red and white striped shirt, and jeans, Okah sat calmly in the dock waiting for proceedings to start.

“I have been through worse.... I'm prepared for these kinds of things. This is Africa,” he told reporters.

His wife, wearing sunglasses, sat in the public gallery, with family and friends. - Sapa


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