A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Tuesday ordered that the seven suspected Boko Haram leaders, among them a lady, Halima Haliru, said to be a wife to one of the suspects, who were allegedly involved in the kidnap and murder of 11 foreign nationals between 2011 and 2013 in Bauchi be remanded at Kuje Prison pending their trial in the criminal charges brought against them by the Federal Government.
The Federal Government had slammed an 11-count charge against the seven suspected members of the Boko Haram sect, to which they all pleaded not guilty when read out to them in the court.
The suspects, who were Tuesday arraigned before Justice John Tsoho 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.
The defendants, were charged with 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.”
The seven defendants 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.”
After the defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred against them, the prosecution counsel, Shuaibu Labaran prayed the court for a date to commence trial and that the court should allow them remain in the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS) pending the completion of their trial.
Counsel to the 6th defendant, A. Abdulkareem informed the court that the 6th defendant, along with other defendants have being in the custody of the DSS for the past fours years and that the DSS has denied them access to their families and their lawyers.
He said he needs material and know the facts of the matter to enable him prepare for the defence of his client, which he said he couldn’t get because of the inability to get in touch with the 6th defendant in the custody of the DSS.
Abdulkareem and counsel to the rest six defendants, S. M Attah pleaded with the court to order that the defendants be remanded in prison custody, a request the court granted, having overruled the objection by the prosecution counsel.
He He Quadri Labaran, in his submsiions said he would ensure that the defendants are allowed unfettered access to their lawyers and members of their family.
He also said he woukd furnish the defendants with all the processes filed in the matter before the close of work Tuesday , including the application for protection of witness.
The trial Judge, in a short ruling said the Federal Government has all the machinery to ensure the security of the citizens, adding that the court will not compromise the personal liberty.
QAccording to him, once an arraignment is made, the official custody of a defendant is the prison and consequently ordered that the defendants be remanded at the Kuje prison in Abuja.
The court then adjourned the matter till April 11, 2017 to commence trial.