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Court discharges Boko Haram suspect after 4 years in custody

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•Cites lack of evidence 

…Nneoma Ndibe 

A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has discharged a Boko Haram Suspect Usman Abubakar (a.k.a Mugiratu) over lack of evidence linking him to the charge of terrorism levied against him by the Federal government.

 Abubakar was arraigned alongside six others on an 11- count charge, bothering on abduction and murder and had been in the government custody for over five years before reprieve came his way.

 They were alleged to have abducted seven foreigners from a construction site in Bauchi and conveyed them to Sambisa Forest, in Borno where they were murdered in February 2013.

 At the resumed trial on Thursday, the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Shuaibu Labaran drew the court’s attention to an application for amendment filed on Monday, June 5, 2017.

 Labaran told the court that the prosecution has nothing against the 6th defendant (Abubakar).

He added that among other features in the amendment is the “striking out” of Usman Abubakar as a defendant in the case in line with an application filed on February 23, 2017, seeking the addition of two other defendants; Mohammed Sani and Abubakar Abdulrahman Habib, thereby bringing the total number of defendants to eight.

He therefore asked the court for an adjournment to enable him produce the two new defendants who would subsequently take their plea and face trial.

The defense counsel however did not object to the adjournment, but urged the court to direct that the prosecution provide the new defendants with relevant documents to foster a healthy and speedy trial.

Counsel to the discharged defendant, Mr. K. Abdulkarim urged the court to take into consideration the period of time Abubakar has been in custody and discharge him accordingly.
The trial Judge, Justice John Tsoho in a short ruling struck out the name of the 6th defendant who has spent 5 years in custody as an accused person.

The Federal Government had slammed an 11-count charge against the defendants on allegations of being members of the Boko Haram sect.

They are Mohammed Usman (aka Khalid Albarnawi), described as the leader of a Boko Haram splinter group, Jama’atu Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis Sudan (a.k.a ANSARU); Mohammed Bashir Saleh, Umar Bello (aka Abu Azzan); Mohammed Salisu (Datti); Yakubu Nuhu (aka Bello Maishayi), Usman Abubakar (Mugiratu) and a lady, Halima Haliru.

They are been tried for  conspiracy, hostage taking, supporting a terrorist group, membership of a terrorist group, illegal possession of firearms and concealing information on terrorism.

They were charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism, contrary to Section 17 of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2011, as amended in 2013, and punishable under same.
The defendants were accused of murdering, “Internationally Protected Persons (IPPs)”, contrary to Section (3) (a) of Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2011 as amended in 2013 and punishable under same.

According to the charge filed by the office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), the defendants, on February 2013 at Ikirima Boko Haram Camp in Sambisa Forest, allegedly “murdered seven internationally protected persons – Carlos Bou Azziz, Brendan Vaughan, Silvano Trevisan, Konstantinos Karras, Ghaida Yaser Sa’ad (F), Julio Ibrahim El-Khouli and Imad El-Andari – and buried the bodies in a shallow grave.

They were charged in count four, with hostage-taking, contrary to Section 15(c) of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2011, as amended in 2013, and punishable under same.

The defendants were alleged to have, on February 18, 2013, at Life Camp Yard of SETRACO Construction Company in Jama’are, Bauchi State, “did knowingly seize and continue to detain” the seven expatriates, “at Ikirima Boko Haram camp in Sambisa Forest for about 10 days before their eventual murder.”

They were, in count five, accused of knowingly gave “an explicit condition for the release of the seven expatriates” and they were also accused of being members of a “Boko Haram splinter group known as Jama’atu Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis Sudan a.k.a ANSARU being a proscribed terrorist group in Nigeria, contrary to Section 16 (1) of Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2011 as amended in 2013 and punishable under the same section of the Act.”

They were equally accused of being in possession of firearms without licence, punishable under Section 27 (1) (a) (1) of the firearms Act Cap F28 LFN 2004.

The prosecution said firearms were recovered from Usman’s house at Rafin Guza, NDC layout, Kaduna State, sometime last year.

The arms included five AK-47 rifles (serial numbers 75582, 439106, 4483, 53964 and 3792); an unserviceable AK-47 rifle (serial number destroyed); nine detached bullets of assault rifles; one locally-made revolver; two locally-made single barrel pistols; two locally-made double barrel pistols; one locally-made incomplete short gun and three working parts of assault rifles.

The charge alleged that Usman “used the firearms, with other members of the proscribed ANSARU sect, to unleash terror against unsuspecting Nigerians, foreigners and the Nigerian state, and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 27 (1) (a) (i) of the firearms Act, Cap F 28 LFN 2004.”

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