The trial of the suspected bomber of THISDAY Newsapers’ office in Kaduna, Mustapha Umar, could not commence yesterday at the Federal High Court in Abuja Monday as his lawyer, Mr Nureni Sulaiman, said he was just been briefed by the suspect.
The trial judge, Justice Adeniyi Ademola, citing the interest of fair hearing, consequently adjourned the case till April 29. Umar was accused of bombing SOJ Plaza in Kaduna occupied by THISDAY, The Moment and the Sun newspapers.
At the last hearing of the case, the suspect was represented by Mr. Felix Umai and Mohammed Umar, both from Manga Chambers in Abuja, He, however, had to change counsel as he was represented yesterday by Sulaiman, who told the court that he was just briefed Monday. But before the adjournment, the prosecutor, Simon Labaran, had asked the court to hear his application to exclude members of the public except the press and the parties in the case, from hearing the proceedings. Although, Justice Ademola was ready to hear the application, the defence counsel, however, objected, saying that the constitution mandated the trial to be in the open.
The judge, therefore, directed the defence counsel to file his response to the application. He directed him to file the defence of his client to the charges and front load it to enable the court handle the case with dispatch.
The judge also ordered that the suspect be remanded in Kuje prison even as he directed the prison officials to allow the suspect access to his lawyer and family to enable him prepare his defence adequately. In his ruling, Justice Ademola directed the prison officials to make sure that the accused was brought to court by 9.am. The case was initially stood down because the accused was not brought early yesterday. He was brought to court at about 9:58.am.
At the last hearing of the case, the prosecutor had applied that Umar's trial be held in private. Taking the hint from the judge, Labaran had amended his application to allow the press to cover the trial. The suspect had pleaded not guilty to the one-count charge bordering on terrorism.
Mustapha Umar who is charged on a one-count charge of terrorism-related act had told the court that he was arrested and detained since April, 2012, and that he was not allowed any visitor, including family members and requested for a lawyer to be produced for his defence by the federal government which brought him to court.
He was alleged to have driven a white Honda Academy car with registration number AL 306 MKA with improvised explosive devices into the premises of SOJ plaza and detonated same.
Over 10 persons were reportedly killed as a result of the attack.