File picture: SAPS (Twitter)

DURBAN – The State’s case against 11 people accused of a series of terror related incidents around Durban this year, was dealt a serious blow on Tuesday after the Verulam Magistrate’s Court granted them bail.

Being heard at the Verulam Family Court under tight security, Magistrate Irfan Khalil said the State’s reliance on the identity parade -- which was deemed flawed in various respects -- and a lack of clear evidence linking the accused to the crimes did not warrant the men being held in custody. 

Khalil said while there were enough “bits and pieces” linking some of the accused to the multitude of charges, it may take another 12 months for the investigation to be concluded and a further two years for the matter to be concluded in the high court.

The accused had already been detained for 53 days. 

They are accused of planting explosive devices across Durban earlier this year as well as attacking the Imam Hussain mosque in Verulam in May, which led to the death of one man.

Khalil found that there was a clear lack of evidence linking the men to the most serious of charges from murder, attempted murder and arson to keep them incarcerated, including the alleged ringleader and Durban businessman Farad Hoomer, who was released on R200 000 bail.

The accused face schedule six offences which include murder, extortion and arson as well as charges under South African anti-terror legislation known as the Protection of Constitutional Democracy against Terrorism and Related Activities Act, while some face kidnapping charges.

Khalil found that while there was evidence that implied Hoomer was involved in at least the extortion racket, there was little else. He said the “evidence doesn’t support incarceration” although “other bits of lose evidence raises suspicion that he may be linked to ISIS”.  

“At best there is a prima facie case against Hoomer, albeit weak, linking him to the kidnapping charge. There is little if any evidence against Hoomer. Bits and pieces linking him to [the extortion charges], [however] the totality of evidence does indeed [still] raise suspicion,” said Khalil.

He said that accused two, Ahmed Haffejee, 28, belonging to a WhatsApp group titled Jundullah -- meaning Soldiers of God -- did not link Haffejee to ISIS. Haffejee was released on R150,000 bail.

Khalil said that any link between Haffejee and another member of the same WhatsApp group called Ahmed Jackson Mussa, who is fingered in the February murder of British botanists Rachel and Rodney Saunders in northern KwaZulu-Natal, was also “of little consequence”.

He said Tanzanian nationals Thabit Said Mwenda and Seiph Mohamed and Congolese Amani Mayani were only arrested because they lived at 14 Fulham Road in Reservoir Hills, Durban. 

The State has claimed the house was a base for ISIS activity where all the accused were arrested.

However, the men maintain they were there for an “inauguration” prayer to bless the house as a place of worship.

The remaining accused, Mohamad Akbar, Abubaker Ali from Tanzania, Congolese refugee Abasi Juma, Mohammed Adil Sobruin and Burundians Iddy Omari and Ndikumana Shabani were also granted bail either on a warning statement or for costs between R3 000 and R5 000.

Khalil said while some of the accused were in the country illegally and those with refugee status might lapse, immigration officials had committed to not consider deporting them until the trial was finalised.

Each accused is to report to the Durban Central police station every Wednesday between 6am and 6pm, surrender travel documents, not leave the province without permission and not interfere with witnesses.

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African News Agency (ANA)