MEND leader, Henry Okah
The trial has opened in South Africa of the suspected leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Henry Okah, for allegedly masterminding the bomb attacks during Nigeria's 50th independence celebrations in 2010. Okah has, however, denied the 13 charges related to acts of terrorism.
He was arrested in Johannesburg a day after two car bombs in Abuja killed at least 12 people. MEND had claimed responsibility for the attacks.
During the trial, Minister of the Niger Delta, Godsday Orubebe, told the court in Johannesburg that Okah was a “key figure in the Niger Delta struggle and the militants had a lot of respect for him,” AFP has reported.
Okah is being tried under laws that stipulate that South Africa is obliged to try him as he has been a resident in the country and now has South African citizenship.
“Based on the information we have and how we are approaching this case, we are confident that we will get a positive conviction,” South Africa's National Prosecution Authority spokesperson Phindile Louw said.
He has been in custody in South Africa since his arrest in October 2010 but his lawyers have said they want to make a fresh application for bail.
Okah was arrested on gun-running charges in Angola in 2007 and then transferred to Nigeria but he was never convicted.
He was released after two years under the amnesty programme for oil militants, after which he returned to South Africa, where he had lived since 2003.
His faction of MEND has never fully participated in the amnesty process.