5 February 2013

Nigeria: Suspected Islamist Denies Bombing Newspaper Houses

Photo: Daily Trust
April 26 2012 explosions at ThisDay offices in Abuja and Kaduna.

Abuja — Alleged member of the Boko Haram Islamic sect, Mustaphar Umar, Tuesday, denied complicity in the bomb explosions that destroyed offices of Thisday Newspaper, Moment Newspaper and the Sun Newspaper in Kaduna state on April 26, 2012.

Umar who is 34 years old, told Justice Adeniyi Ademola of a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja that he knew nothing about the one-count criminal charge that was preferred against him by the Federal Government.

The Department of State Security, DSS, which recommended him for trial, had maintained that its investigations revealed that it was the accused person that drove a white Honda Academy car with number plate AL 306 MKA laden with improvised explosives into the premises of SOJ Plaza occupied by the newspaper houses and detonated the explosives.

His alleged act of terrorism, ran contrary to section 1(2) (c) (r) of Terrorism Prevention Act, 2011, punishable under section 33 (1) (a) of the same Act.

The high court had on January 29, remanded the accused person in prison custody from where he was brought to court amidst tight security.

After the accused pleaded not guilty to the charge, the prosecution counsel, Mr. Simon Labaran, asked for a date to commence full trial on the matter.

However, Umar, through his lawyers Mr. F. I. Umahi and Mohammed Umar, urged the court to order prison authorities to grant him access to his lawyers and family members, a request that was accordingly granted.

The case was subsequently adjourned till March 12.

It will be recalled that when the matter came up on the last adjourned date, the accused who said he did not understand English language, told the court through an interpreter that since the day he was apprehended, the Police which held him in custody, denied him access to either a lawyer or any visitor, even as he begged the court to allow him to get a defence counsel.

Consequent upon his plea, trial Justice Ademola ordered that he should be transferred to Kuje Prison, adding that he should be granted unfettered access to any lawyer of his choice.

Specifically, the charge against him which is dated January 9, 2013, reads: "That you Mustapher Umar (M), 34, of Gashuwa Road Damaturu, Yobe State, on or about the 26th April 2012 drove a White Honda Academy car with registration number AL 306 MKA laden with improvised explosives into the premises of SOJ Plaza occupied by Thisday Newspaper, The Moment Newspaper and The Sun Newspaper located at R9, Kontagora Road, by Ahmadu Bello way, Kaduna and detonated the explosives, you thereby committed an act of terrorism contrary to section 1(2) (c) (r) of Terrorism Prevention Act, 2011 and punishable under section 33 (1) (a) of the same Act."

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