News / Africa

Lebanese Men Accused of 'Terrorism' in Nigeria Trial Concludes

FILE - Military officials stand near ammunitions seized from suspected members of Hezbollah after a raid of a building in Nigeria's northern city of Kano, May 30, 2013.
FILE - Military officials stand near ammunitions seized from suspected members of Hezbollah after a raid of a building in Nigeria's northern city of Kano, May 30, 2013.
Heather Murdock
Nigeria's trial of three Lebanese-born men who are accused of terrorist-related activities associated with Hezbollah concluded Monday. Defense lawyers argued that some of the charges against the men had not been proven, and others were not criminal acts in the first place.

The mood in this hot courtroom was surprisingly relaxed given the seriousness of the charges and the judge told court officers to bring in chairs to make the accused men more comfortable.

The accused - Mustapha Fawaz, Abdullah Tahini and Talal Roda - are Nigeria residents with both Lebanese and Nigerian citizenship. A representative from the Lebanese embassy watched the proceedings from near the back of the courtroom.

The men had been charged with 15 counts, including trafficking weapons, money laundering and plotting terrorist attacks for the Lebanese group Hezbollah. If found guilty, they could be sentenced to anywhere from five years to life in prison, depending on the charge.

On the steps outside the courtroom, defense attorney Robert Clarke said his clients are innocent and that one of the main charges - membership in Hezbollah - isn’t even a crime in Nigeria.

“We have argued that the law is on our side, that the federal government has not declared Hezbollah a terrorist organization, therefore no organization in Nigeria can charge them to court [for] belonging to an organization,” said Clarke.

In court, Clarke said that if the judge found the defendants guilty, it would be a signal to the international community that Nigeria now views Hezbollah as a terrorist organization - a move likely to be frowned on some Arab countries, most especially Lebanon, a key economic ally.

Besides, Clarke said, legally the court cannot make such a declaration - only the president can.

Hezbollah is considered a terrorist organization by Israel and the United States but many other countries view the group as a Lebanese political party with a powerful militia.

Some analysts say Hezbollah has a growing interest in West Africa because regional chaos and porous borders could be an aid to weapons trafficking. There never have been any known Hezbollah-related attacks in Nigeria.

For the prosecution in this case, Hezbollah membership is a crime in Nigeria because terrorism is a crime.

Prosecution attorney Simon Edege argued in court that any groups committing what legally are considered acts of terror are, in terms of domestic laws, terrorist groups.

And “terrorism” in Nigeria legally includes making plans for attacks, or membership in a group that commits terrorist acts.

Defense attorney Ahmed Raji said that even if the prosecution’s argument holds up legally, however, the evidence against his clients was insufficient to conclude they are linked to any of the alleged crimes.

“No weapon was brought before the court from Kano, it was just photographs. This is not good evidence. That is not admissible evidence to prove a crime. Anybody could have taken a photograph of any weapons anywhere. Is that how they prove crime anywhere in the world?” asked Raji.


Raji said the defendants are suing the government for $19 million for unlawful imprisonment because they were locked up for nearly two months without charges.  

The initial arrest came after security forces said they found a stash of weapons under a house in northern Nigeria belonging to another Lebanese man, who remains out of the country.

The judge has not set a date to announce his verdict, but he said it will be soon.

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid