Johannesburg - The credibility of a witness testifying for convicted terrorist Henry Okah was questioned by the High Court in Johannesburg on Monday during sentencing proceedings.
Prosecutor Shaun Abrahams asked lawyer Tony Nnadi if he was aware of the evidence which was uncontested before the court, including Okah's supplying of arms, military attire and explosives to people.
Nnadi responded: “I am not personally aware of it, but read some reports in the media.”
The Nigeria-based lawyer told the court that the imposition of a lesser sentence on Okah could help maintain peace in his home country and said he had held telephonic “peace-talks” with Okah since 2009.
However, Nnadi told the court he was not sure about the conditions under which Okah received amnesty in Nigeria in July 2009.
“The real reason Okah received amnesty is because Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) senior leaders said they would lay down arms,” Abrahams said.
“Are you aware that the mind of the accused the time after receiving amnesty was to contact the State witnesses to ask them to tell MEND leaders to not surrender their arms?” he asked.
Nnadi responded: “I was not aware of this.”
Abrahams asked Nnadi if he had been in contact with the people affected by the bombings in October 2010.
He initially responded that he did not, but that he knew what it felt like to be affected.
Judge Neels Claassen asked for a “simple answer” about whether he had spoken to any of the relatives of those who were injured or were killed.
Nnadi said he had, but could not remember their names as there were a lot of them.
Abrahams responded: “I put it to you that you are being absolute disingenuous when you say you spoke to anyone.”
Nnadi's testimony was also interrupted when, about 20 minutes into his evidence, which was led by Okah's advocate JP Marais, Abrahams objected and said he did not understand its relevance.
“I fail to understand what the witness is saying, with all due respect,” he said.
Claassen asked Nnadi to keep his answers short and not to “lecture” the court on various topics from South African history, law, former president Nelson Mandela, the African National Congress and sentencing proceedings.
Dressed in white, Okah's wife Azuka sat in the third row of the public gallery listening attentively to the proceedings.
When Abrahams asked about the bombings, she bowed her head.
Okah, who wore a red and blue checked T-shirt, sat in the heavily-guarded courtroom looking at the lawyers and judge as they spoke. He occasionally turned around to look at his wife.
When asked about the peace-talks, Nnadi said he started looking for Okah in 2007, but was put in touch with him in 2009 after he arrived in South Africa.
Abrahams said the evidence before the court was that Okah had supplied military attire, arms and explosives, despite the peace-talks.
Asked about the NGOs he represented, Nnadi said they were not recognised by law because “it was not absolutely necessary” and their funding was private.
On Tuesday, Abrahams is expected to respond to an application by Okah to declare his trial irregular.
On Monday, Marais submitted there were three irregularities with the trial: that a State witness was not properly identified; that Okah was not given consular assistance; and that the court did not help get defence witnesses to South Africa to testify.
On January 21, Okah was found guilty on 13 counts of terrorism, including engaging in terrorist activities, conspiracy to engage in terrorist activities, and delivering, placing, and detonating an explosive device.
The charges related to two car bombs in Abuja, Nigeria, in which 12 people were killed and 36 injured on October 1, 2010, the anniversary of the country's independence.
During judgment in January, Claassen said the State had proved Okah's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and his failure to testify meant the evidence against him remained uncontested.
He found no evidence that Okah did not head MEND, which claimed responsibility for the blasts. During the trial, Okah denied any involvement and said the charges against him were politically motivated.
Proceedings resume on Tuesday morning. - Sapa