ABUJA—The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, yesterday, heard how one of the three Lebanese suspects allegedly involved in illicit importation of arms into the country got an order to survey the Israeli Embassy in Nigeria.
The suspect, Mustapha Fawaz, co-owner of Amigo Supermarket Limited and Wonderland Amusement Park Resort, in a video shown to the court, further confessed that he was mandated by a top Hezbollah agent, simply identified as “Isah”, to get an aerial picture of Abuja.
To successfully get a holistic shot of strategic spots in the Federal Capital Territory, the suspect said he maneuvered his way to the top of Sheraton Hotel in Abuja, from where he took pictures of the capital city.
Besides, the accused person disclosed that in both of his business outfits, Amigo and Wonderland, which had since been shut by the Federal Government, he had special surveillance cameras with which he monitored the movement of expatriates, especially those of Israeli extraction.
Similarly, the third accused person, Tahal Roda, who was arrested inside the house where a large cache of arms and ammunition were discovered in an underground bunker at No 3 Gaya Road, off Bompai Road in Kano, admitted that he was not only aware of the existence of the arms, but also frequently serviced them.
Due to the exigency of time, the trial court, presided over by Justice Ademola Adeniyi, could not finish viewing all the video clips that contained the confessions of the accused persons during interrogation by operatives of the Department of State Services, DSS. The videos were accordingly admitted into evidence.
The court had earlier heard how the second accused person, Mr Abdullahi Thahini, was apprehended at the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport on May 11, 2013, when he tried to escape the country to Beirut via a Middle East airline.
Justice Adeniyi further took possession of the sum of $61, 170, 000 he allegedly attempted to smuggle out of the country.
Meanwhile, having called 10 witnesses and tendered 24 exhibits against the accused persons, the Federal Government closed its case, even as the court adjourned till Friday to enable them open defence.
The court gave the accused persons three days to adduce reasons they should not be convicted on the basis of the 16-count terrorism charge preferred against them by the government.
Investigations by Vanguard revealed that the accused persons had resolved to mount the witness box and testify for themselves, just as they had packaged pictures they intended to tender to the court, with a view to proving that Hezbollah, as a political party in Lebanon, had one of its executives visited President Goodluck Jonathan at the Aso Rock Villa.
Speaking to newsmen, the Acting Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, Mr Simon Egede, who is in charge of the prosecution, maintained that the visual evidence government tendered was enough to nail the accused persons.
He said: “The videos confirmed the unauthorized and illegal surveillance carried out by the first accused person along with his foreign collaborators, where they captured different strategic buildings in Abuja, while perched on top of Sheraton Hotel building.
“The video was played and it was revealed, it also confirmed carrying those foreign collaborators round Abuja, searching for the Israeli embassy. The video also confirmed that they have surveillance camera in Amigo supermarket where they captured their customers, especially foreigners and specifically, Israeli customers”.
“The video also confirmed that the 3rd accused person was resident at no. 3 Gaya road and was aware of the underground bunker and serviced these weapons and armoury from time to time. The video stated all these, so, this in a way has confirmed all that we stated in our count of charges and the statement of all our witnesses.”
On the other hand, counsel to the accused persons, Chief Robert Clarke, SAN, dismissed the video as irrelevant, saying “the video has shown nothing new.
“What is contained in the video is exactly what is contained in the statement they have offered. So, there is nothing new in the video. They have not denied in the video that they had some training with Hezbollah. But these were things done in 1991, when they were young men.
“As resistant officers, they were bound to serve their country just like we have our National Youths Service Corps. So, they are not denying that they served in the Hezbollah 23 years ago. But that is not the issue before the court.”
It will be recalled that the court had on Tuesday admitted into evidence, 23 sets of exhibits that were tendered against the accused persons by the Nigerian government.
The exhibits included different categories of guns, cartridge belt holders with ammunitions, pellets for Air Rifles, 150 cartridges, 158rounds of cartridges, two bound copies of still pictures of arms and ammunitions that were discovered in one of their premises at No 3 Gaya Road, off Bompai Road in Kano, two video CDs and witness statements.