By Tobi Soniyi
One of the three Lebanese arraigned for terrorism by the Federal Government, Talal Ahmad Roda, was on Friday sentenced to life imprisonment by a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, having been found guilty of conspiracy.
The two others, Mustapha Fawaz and Abdallah Thahini, were discharged and acquitted from the 16 count charge filed against them by the Federal Government.
The court also discharged Amigo supermarket and Wonderland Amusement Park “as no concrete evidence was established against the two organizations linking them with terrorism.”
The trial judge, Justice Adeniyi Ademola, held that the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubts that the discharged persons were terrorists.
He further held that going by Nigerian law, it had not been established that the Lebanese militant group, Hezbollah was a terrorist organisation and that the court could not hold to the contrary.
Justice Ademola who reviewed all the 16 charges preferred against the three Lebanese, freed Fawaz and Thahini while Roda was convicted on Count 8 and 9 which bothered on conspiracy.
The court however noted that some aspects of the investigation were shady.
The judge also held that the prosecution failed by the evidence brought before the court to establish a case of terrorism against the accused persons.
Specifically, the court held that the ammunition seized from No 3 Gaiya Road, Kano ought to have been brought to the court or the photographer who took the picture should have been brought to the court.
The judge said that better still, the prosecutor should have brought an application to move the court to the site in Kano.
The court held that failure to do this by the prosecution made the evidence brought inadmissible.
The judge also noted that the witness brought by the prosecution who conducted the search confessed that he was neither a forensic nor a ballistic expert.
The court was about to pronounce sentence on the convict when counsel to the accused persons, Ahmed Raji SAN, prayed it to temper justice with mercy.
He premised his allocutus on the grounds that the convict co-operated with the security agencies all through the trial and that he had lived his entire life in Nigeria.
Responding, the prosecution counsel, Simon Egede, submitted that he shared in the sentiment of the defence counsel; however, he said “the law must take its course, no matter what happened.”
He noted that the punishment for conspiracy was life imprisonment and he urged the court to follow the law in making its pronouncement.
It was at this point that the trial judge rose for about 45 minutes.
In pronouncing sentence, Justice Ademola held that the charge under which the 3rd accused person was convicted provided for life imprisonment and the court had no discretion to vary it.
He said: "I have listened to the allocutus of the defence counsel on the issue of sentencing.
"After I have read one or two authorities as to the provision where the accused was charged, it does not give room for judicial discretion. I thereby sentence the third accused person to life imprisonment on Count 8 and 9 and both terms are to run concurrently."
The court further ordered that both Amigo Supermarket and Wonderland Amusement Park, all in Abuja be unsealed with immediate effect.
He added that the 61,170 US dollars seized from the 2nd accused be returned to him and that all other personal properties seized from the discharged persons and their relatives be returned to them forthwith.
It will be recalled the Federal Government had on July 29 arraigned the accused persons for terrorism and over link with Hezbollah military group.
They were also accused of act of terrorism and illegal firearms after a large arms cache was discovered in the residence linked to the suspects in Kano.
They were further accused of plotting attacks against Western and Israeli targets in the country. They had all pleaded not guilty.