Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
A Federal High Court in Abuja yesterday ordered seven suspected Boko Haram leaders, who were allegedly involved in the kidnap and murder of 11 foreign nationals between 2011 and 2013 in the North to be remanded at Kuje Prison pending their trial.
The federal government had filed an 11-count charge against the seven suspected leaders of the outlawed Boko Haram sect,
They however, all pleaded not guilty when the charges were read to them.
The suspects, who were arraigned yesterday 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 Aliyu.
The defendants, said to be leaders of Boko Haram before establishing their own faction, are charged with conspiracy, hostage taking, supporting a terrorist group, membership of a terrorist group, illegal possession of firearms and concealing information on terrorism.
They are also 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 are 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.”
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.
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 the trial of the defendants and that the court should allow them remain in the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS) pending the completion of their trial.
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 would not compromise the personal liberty.
According 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.