KZN terror suspects accused of Woolworths bombings and deadly mosque attack free after 2-year court battle
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Durban - ALMOST two years after a group of Durban men were arrested and charged for planting a series of bombs in the city and planning a deadly attack at a Verulam mosque, the case was struck off the roll. The State had failed to adequately justify why it was not ready to proceed with the matter.
The 12 suspects appeared at the Verulam Magistrate’s Court yesterday. They were seen celebrating outside court and have vowed to sue the State for damages due to the humiliation they suffered during the past 21 months.
Speaking to The Mercury soon after appearing in court yesterday, Farhad Hoomer, 43, who the State alleged was the “ringleader” behind the attacks, said justice had finally prevailed, but “our lives and good standing in the community have been ruined forever”.
“Almost two years ago, the Hawks decided to savagely raid a new prayer facility on a Friday, the holiest day of the week, and arrest every single person innocently praying there. They acted on the basis of arrest first, and do the investigative work later. To date, they still have not produced a shred of evidence against us,” Hoomer said.
He said apart from their lives and those of their families “being ruined forever”, their business reputations had also been “irreparably tarnished”.
“We have suffered immensely and will seek recourse for damages against the state,” Hooker said.
He commended magistrate Irfaan Khalil for taking a “firm and pragmatic approach” and striking the case off the roll. The matter was struck off the roll after the State brought an application for a further postponement.
The State’s application was opposed by the legal teams representing the 12 men.
Khalil said the matter would be struck off the roll because the State had not been able to adequately justify why it was not ready to proceed with its case against Hoomer, Ahmed Haffejee Goolam Haffejee Thabit Mwenda Mohamad Akbar Seiph Mohamed Amani Mayani Abubakar Ali Abbas Jooma Mahammed Sobruin Ndikumana Shabani and Iddy Omari.
Khalil said this delay was causing prejudice to the accused and denied them the right to a speedy trial.
Hoomer, a businessman from Overport, and his co-accused faced charges of terrorism, murder, attempted murder, arson and kidnapping. They were also accused of having links to the militant group Islamic State.
They were accused of planning and detonating a number of bombs across the city in 2018. Hoomer was kept in custody for 53 days before being granted bail of R200 000.
The men were accused of attacking the Imam Hussein Mosque in Verulam where worshippers had their throats slit. The incident claimed the life of Abbas Essop in May 2018.
Another worshipper was disembowelled and a third person sustained serious knife injuries.
Apart from the knife attack, an explosive device was also detonated, which resulted in extensive damage to a library adjoining the mosque and artefacts on the premises.
The State said then that the suspects fled in a white Hyundai Getz, which was recovered at Hoomer’s premises in Reservoir Hills. An incendiary device and Eco Candi handset, used to detonate incendiary devices, were also found on the property.
The State fingered Hoomer as the ringleader of a group that had been meeting for more than a year.
At the time, the State alleged the Durban home of the father of eight was used as a training facility for Islamic State supporters.
The nature of the attack, targeting of the specific mosque, the utterances by the attackers during the attack and downloads from the devices seized in the search-and-seizure operation, led the State to believe the attack was ideologically motivated, underlined by tensions between so-called Shia and Sunni Muslims.
Eight Islamic State flags were found on Hoomer’s property. The State told the court that the suspects were guided by an Islamic State handbook on how to build bombs and take part in violent acts against non-Muslims.
The manual, titled MujGuide, was allegedly recovered on a digital device owned by the businessman.
In another incident, a Tanzanian man was found chained in a dungeon in Reservoir Hills that belonged to Hoomer. The State alleged that the kidnapped victim identified Hoomer in a parade.
The State at that time alleged that the incendiary devices had been triggered by cellphones linked to the suspects, specifically Hoomer.
It alleged that Hoomer’s cellphone was used with different SIM cards to extort money from three prominent businesses, and the same handset was used to detonate the bomb at the Verulam mosque.
One of his vehicles, a VW Polo, was also in the uMhlanga area in July when explosive devices were placed in the Woolworths store in Gateway.
Investigating officer Khwezi Chonco said in his affidavit that CCTV footage was analysed and suspects were identified placing the devices in the shop.