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Kano Arms Cache: Court frees two Lebanese suspects, sentence one to life imprisonment

Justice Ademola Adeniyi of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, yesterday, dismissed the 16-count criminal charge that was preferred against the Lebanese co-owner of Amigo Supermarket, Mustapha Fawaz, by the Federal Government, following his alleged involvement in the illegal importation of arms into Nigeria.

Equally discharged by the court yesterday was another Lebanese, Abdullahi Thahini, who was arrested at the Mallam Aminu Kano Internationa lAirport on May 11, 2013, and the sum of $61, 170, recovered from him.

Prison officers leading Talal Ahmad Roda to Prison shortly he was sentence Life imprisonment on terrorist Act in Abuja. Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan.
Prison officers leading Talal Ahmad Roda to Prison shortly he was sentence Life imprisonment on terrorist Act in Abuja. Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan.

The government had alleged that Thahini, who it said had attempted to escape from the country via a Middle East airline, was deeply involved in terrorism financing in the country.

However, the court, yesterday, found the 3rd accused person, Tahal Roda, guilty on two counts of criminal conspiracy contrary to section 1(14) (a) (i) of Miscellaneous Offences Act, CAP M17, LFN, 2004, and sentenced him to life imprisonment on each of the counts, stressing that his sentence should run concurrently.

It will be recalled that the federal government had specifically alleged that Fawaz who is equally the owner of Wonderland Amusement Park Resort in Abuja and his compatriots were members of the military wing of a Lebanon based terrorist organization, Hezbollah.

Maintaining that the accused persons were in charge of the operations of Hezbollah in Nigeria, the government, through Acting Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, Mr Simon Egede, called 10 witnesses and tendered 25 exhibits in the course of the trial.

Among the exhibits admitted against them by the court included guns, cartridge belt holders with ammunition, pellets for Air Rifles, 150 cartridges, 158rounds of cartridges, two bound copies of still pictures of arms and ammunition that were allegedly discovered in one of their premises at No 3 Gaya Road, off Bompai Road in Kano, two video CDs and witness statements.

Other arms allegedly uncovered at the underground bunker owned by the suspects were anti-tank weapons, rocket-propelled guns and anti-tank/anti-personnel mines.

According to the security operatives that conducted the search, the arms and ammunition were properly concealed with several layers of concrete and placed in coolers, drums and bags neatly wrapped.

The 3rd accused who was convicted yesterday, Roda, was not only apprehended inside the bunker were the arms were recovered, but also confessed that he was commissioned by another Lebanese who is an in-law to Fawaz, Abdalhassan Tahir, currently at large, to be servicing the guns.

The security services had insisted that the weapons were intended to be used to attack Israeli and Western targets based in Nigeria.

Meantime, the accused persons denied all the allegations and urged the court to dismiss the charge for want of nexus linking them to the arms and ammunitions recovered in Kano state.

Arguing through their team of lawyers led by Chief Robert Clarke, SAN and Mr Ahmed Raji, SAN, they maintained that the government, failed to adduce sufficient proof of evidence capable of warranting their conviction.

From right, Mustapha Fawaz, and Abdallah Thahini acquitted of Terrorist charges at Federal High Court in Abuja. Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan
From right, Mustapha Fawaz, and Abdallah Thahini acquitted of Terrorist charges at Federal High Court in Abuja. Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan

Relying on section 86(4) of the Evidence Act, they challenged the credibility of the photographs and Video evidence admitted against them as exhibit 7(a) and 7(b), saying it could have been downloaded from the internet. They contended that the inability of the government to bring the arms and ammunition allegedly recovered from them to the court for inspection rendered the photos worthless, even as they challenged the prosecution to produce an official gazette where Hezbollah was declared a terrorist organization in Nigeria.

Clarke, argued that the federal government deliberately withheld valid evidence from the court contrary to section 167(b) of the Evidence Act, stressing that only President Goodluck Jonathan has the powers to proscribe Hezbollah in Nigeria, “such court pronouncement will only succeed in pitching the Arab countries against Nigeria,” he added.

In his judgment yesterday, trial Justice Adeniyi, upheld their argument, maintaining that the prosecution, failed to prove the terrorism allegation against them beyond every reasonable doubt.

Justice Adeniyi held that there was no evidence before him to prove that Nigeria has proscribed Hezbollah as an international terrorist organization.










Source: Vanguard News

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