Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger leader Henry Okah who face charges relating to terrorism in Nigeria is tried By Judge Claasen who he faced for the first time in the South Gauteng High Court on Monday. Picture: Timothy Bernard 01.10.2012


Johannesurg - Nigerian Henry Okah is not a terrorist but a freedom fighter, a protester said outside the High Court in Johannesburg on Monday.

“Mr Henry Okah is a freedom fighter. He is not a terrorist,” prison rights activist Golden Miles Bhudu said outside court.

“He is and was fighting for the emancipation of his people. South Africa had no right to charge him.”

Dressed in orange prison overalls with chains wrapped around him, Bhudu had two posters in his hands.

“Henry Okah is a political detainee & not a terrorist, says Sapohr” and “Henry Okah's trial re-enacts Rivonia trial of 1964, says Sapohr,” the placards read.

Sapohr is the SA Prisoners' Organisation for Human Rights.

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

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.

The court heard that Okah intended calling at least five people from United State and Nigeria to come and testify.

During judgment in January, Judge Neels Claassen said the State had proved Okah's guilt beyond reasonable doubt, and that his failure to testify meant the evidence against him remained uncontested.

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

In the last court appearance on February 28, the court was informed that Okah would be represented by a new lawyer, Gerrit Muller SC.

On March 1, The Star reported that Okah's previous lawyer, Lucky Maunatlala, blamed the South African embassy in Nigeria for the witnesses not being able to get to court. He said the embassy had failed to prepare their visas on time.

During the trial, Okah denied any involvement in the blasts and said the charges against him were politically motivated. The main road outside the court was closed off to traffic. Police were monitoring who was allowed to pass.

On the second floor of the courtroom police and security guards were conducting body searches and searching bags twice before entry.

The sentencing proceeding were expected to start after 10am. - Sapa