Lebanese arms dealers denied bail by federal high court in Abuja

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Three suspected Hezbollah members, a co-owner of Amigo supermarket, Mustapha Fawaz, and two other Lebanese suspects, Abdallah Thahani and Talal Ahmed Rodo, were on Friday denied bail by a federal high court in Abuja.

Justice Adeniyi Ademola, instead, granted the trio an accelerated hearing in the six-count terrorism charges bordering on illegal importation of firearms.

The trial judge also refused to order the unsealing of Amigo Supermarket and Wonderland Amusement Park, all owned by one of the suspects, Mr. Fawaz.

Consequently, Justice Ademola fixed July 29, 30 and 31, 2013 for trial and, accordingly, ordered that they be returned to the custody of the State Security Service (SSS).

The judge also ordered that the accused persons’ lawyers, their family members and their doctors be allowed access to them.

In his ruling on bail application, Justice Ademola held that the offence for which the trio are standing trial are grave and since the accused persons have dual citizenship, there is the likelihood that they may not be available to face their trial.

The judge further stressed that out of the many criteria available for him to explore in the exercise of his discretion in granting bail to the accused person, only one, which is the likelihood that the accused person may interfere with witnesses is not plausible.

“Since the prosecution has concluded its investigation, and their witnesses are all SSS operatives, the likelihood that the suspects may interfere with evidence or witnesses is no longer there. I, therefore, resolve this criterion in the favour of the accused”.

The judge, however, held that although the suspects have pleaded not guilty to the six counts, the prosecution has filed its proof of evidence such as pictures of firearms and ammunition recovered from the suspects and that after perusing the proof of evidence he has found out that prosecution has made a prima facie case against the suspects.

On the issue of the medical report presented to the court by the suspects’ lawyers, the court dismissed the medical certificate, as it did not conform to the standard.

“I have examined the medical report and it failed to conform to the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Abacha against the State. There is no medical reports with special circumstances that will warrant the court to rely on in order to grant the accused persons bail.”

The judge also held that since the charges all border on national security, the court is reluctant to grant the suspects bail.

“Having perused the proof of evidence as regards exhibits 8(1) to 8 (4), which is a large quantity of negative weapons, the accused may jump bail. Moreover, once the security of the state is in jeopardy, it is difficult for the court to grant bail. The court, therefore, refused the applicants/suspects bail. However, their liberty to their counsels, family members and medical team should be allowed them.”

Ruling on the sealing of the Amigo Supermarket and Wonderland Amusement Park Resort, Justice Ademola held that based on the prosecution’s counter affidavit that investigations are still ongoing on the said premises, it is not possible for the two properties to be re-opened.

“The law allows the state to takeover premises of any body for the purposes of investigation. Accordingly, the application to unseal the two premises of the 4th and 5th accused persons is hereby dismissed and the court orders accelerated hearing in the matter. I, therefore, adjourned this case to July 29, 30, and 31 for trial so that the case can be disposed of. This is a terrorism matter. We cannot keep suspects in the custody for forever. I will forgo part of my vacation to hear and determine the matter,” Justice Ademola held.

 

[DailyIndependent]

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