The treason trial of suspected Nigerian militant Henry Okah resumes
Monday at a closed federal high court in the central city of Jos. From
the Nigerian capital Abuja, Gilbert da Costa reports Okah could face
Henry Okah, a suspected leader of the
Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, is facing 55
counts of treason, terrorism, illegal possession of firearms and arms
Okah's defense lawyers are barred from making
details of the hearing public, but a member of Okah's defense team, who
asked not to be named, told VOA prosecutors plan to bring seven
additional charges against his client at Monday's closed court session.
increased the charges from 55 to 62," said the lawyer. "They want to
pre-empt our appeal but it won't be acceptable to us. Already, we are
on appeal and one of the things we are appealing against is the fact
that out of the 55 charges, the judges only read out two to him. By
criminal procedure law, they are supposed to read all of them, even if
he keeps mute or not. This is the fourth time they are amending the
charges since we started."
Court proceedings against Okah began
in April. President Umaru Yar'Adua has argued that the proceedings must
be kept secret for the sake of national security.
Lawyers for Okah say a closed trial is an infringement of his rights and have asked a superior court to overturn the decision.
Okah was arrested on suspicion of arms smuggling in Angola in September last year and faces the death penalty.
Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta has claimed
responsibility for a series of attacks on Nigeria's oil infrastructure
that have cut daily production by about one quarter and pushed up
international crude prices.
The group has vowed to increase
attacks on oil installations to pressure the government to free Okah
and give a greater share of oil profits to the impoverished delta