South Africa

Convicted Nigerian terrorist Henry Okah wants to be moved from C-Max

Convicted Nigerian terrorist Henry Okah wants to be moved from C-Max
Pretoria - Convicted Nigerian terrorist Henry Okah is unhappy that he is locked up at the high security C-Max prison in Pretoria, where he has few privileges.

Correctional Services, on the other hand, told the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, that it had received sensitive information that could not be divulged at this stage.

However, it said Okah was regarded as a security risk, thus he had to be locked up in C-Max.

Okah was sentenced to 24 years' imprisonment in March 2013 by the Gauteng High Court, Johannesburg, after he was convicted on 13 counts of terrorism.

It related to two car bombs which were detonated in Nigeria in 2010 during the anniversary of that country’s independence.

The incident left 12 people dead and 36 injured.

In the other incident, two car bombs went off during which one person was killed and 11 injured.

Okah lodged an appeal against his conviction and sentence, which is due to be heard by the High Court in Pretoria on December 3.

Before being transferred to the Kgosi Mampuru Correctional Centre at the end of July, Okah had been incarcerated at the maximum security prison in Kokstad.

He was brought to Pretoria in light of his pending appeal, in which he is representing himself.

According to the prison authorities, owing to security concerns he was only allowed to bring his toiletries with him when he was moved.

When he arrived in Pretoria, he was housed at the Medium B Section as refurbishments of C-Max had not yet been completed. Once these were completed in September, Okah was moved to C-Max.

He applied for an urgent order that Correctional Services immediately returned him to Medium B-Section, where he had more privileges.

He also wanted the prison authorities to return all the documents and notes he had made to him pending his upcoming appeal.

These were confiscated when he was moved to C-Max.

Emmanuel Khoza, a member of the prison management, said in court papers that Okah’s transfer to Pretoria was merely temporary.

He explained that he had instructions to transfer Okah to C-Max after the regional commissioner said she had received “sensitive information” from the office of national intelligence that Okah “poses a very high security risk to the country”.

This meant that his incarceration needed to be upgraded and that he had to be closely monitored.

Khoza said C-Max was designed to accommodate inmates who posed a risk to the country or to other inmates and warders.

He said the information that was shared by the intelligence services was so sensitive that it could not be shared. All he could say was that it was crucial to determine the security risk posed by Okah.

He explained that inmates in C-Max may receive non-contact visitors, with a guard present, and may make phone calls.

Their legal representatives were also allowed to visit them by prior arrangement.

Khoza said that as far as he knew, all the legal documents which were confiscated from Okah had been returned to him.

He said the documents were originally taken to be screened for security purposes.

Okah said a court earlier ruled that he had to get his documents and study material returned to him, but this was never done.

He has also now asked the court to hold the department in contempt for not giving his notes back.

He said he needed these for his appeal.

The officials had appeared unmoved by the court order, he said.

Whether one was a free man or a prisoner, the Bill of Rights was applicable to everyone, he maintained.

Okah said it was at least his right to get his notes back because without them he could not prepare for his pending case.

He also said the C-Max environment was not conducive to him preparing for his case, which he envisaged “will very well end up in the Constitutional Court”.

Meanwhile, Judge Cassim Sardiwalla struck the matter from the roll, as he felt it was not urgent.

Pretoria News