Mr. Okah’s lawyer says the alleged jailbreak report was fabricated by the authorities ahead of Mr. Okah’s hearing at the South African Supreme Court of Appeal in March.
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, and South African-based lawyer, Idemudia Uriesi, have faulted the report that Henry Okah attempted a jailbreak in that country. Mr. Okah, the leader of MEND, was arrested by the South African Government shortly after Nigeria’s 50th Independence Day Anniversary bombing in Abuja on October, 1 2010.
He was arraigned on charges of international terrorism at the Gauteng High Court; Johannesburg, South Africa. On March 26, 2013, he was found guilty and sentenced to a 24-year jail term at the Newlock Prison, Pretoria. On Monday, the South African prison authorities alleged that Mr. Okah colluded with four other inmates to carry out a jailbreak.
“I can confirm that Okah is one of the five inmates that attempted to escape and whose efforts were foiled,” Manelisi Wolela, spokesman for South Africa’s department of correctional services, had told AFP. But MEND’s spokesperson, Jomo Gbomo and Okah’s lawyer, Mr. Uriesi said the South African authorities lied about the attempted jailbreak.
In separate statements to PREMIUM TIMES, they stated that the alleged jailbreak report was fabricated by the authorities ahead of Mr. Okah’s hearing at the South African Supreme Court of Appeal in March. In a statement signed by Mr. Gbomo, MEND said the alleged jailbreak story is a petty propaganda and a desperate attempt by the South African and Nigerian Governments to scuttle Mr. Okah’s likely victory at the appellate court.
“No right thinking person would believe that the ‘political prisoner’ who was recently granted a leave to appeal his conviction and has a pending lawsuit against the South African Prison Service would connive to escape with common-law prisoners who have nothing to lose.
Henry Okah not only shunned a plea bargain offered by the prosecution for his freedom but opted to go ahead with his trial to clear his name. “He is ready to proceed to the South African Constitutional Court to test the South African judicial system against an obvious setup,” MEND said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Okah’s counsel, Mr. Uriesi in a statement said his client won the leave to appeal both his conviction and sentence in November 28, 2013 and was preparing to appear before the appellate court.
Mr. Iriesi stated, “We meet with Mr. Okah on a weekly basis and can confirm that his current preoccupation is his impending appeal hearing and his ‘other prisoner’s rights.’ “All allegations, insinuations and or rumours of escape or attempted escape by our client from the prison custody are fabrications.
They have no basis in truth or facts; are totally false and consequently, denied. “We and our client have total confidence in the correctness of Mr. Okah’s legal position regarding his appeal against conviction and sentence in the charges and we have no doubt his appeal will be successful.”
However, both MEND and the legal team said they would continue to insist on Mr Okah’s innocence over the attacks for which he was convicted and sentenced by the South African court.