The trial of three Lebanese accused of belonging to the Hezbollah terrorist group, and in ration the Kano arm find, ended yesterday with a Federal High Court in Abuja jailing one of them for life.
Talal Ahmad Roda, who was arrested in the Kano house where the ammunition was found, got life to imprisonment having been found guilty of conspiracy.
Mustapha Fawaz, owner of Abuja-based Amigo Supermarket and Wonderland Amusement Park, both companies and the second accused person, Abdallah Thahini were freed.
Justice Ademola Adeniyi, in a judgment yesterday, held that the prosecution failed to provide concrete evidence linking them with terrorism.
The Federal Government had on July 29 arraigned that three men and the companies on a 16-count charge of terrorism.
While Roda was convicted on counts 8 and 9 relating to conspiracy, Fawaz, his companies and Thahini were acquitted on all the counts.
Justice Adeniyi held that the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubts that the discharged persons are terrorists.
The judge was of the opinion that since the Hezbollah military group was not labelled a terrorist group under any Nigerian law, the court could not hold otherwise.
Justice Adeniyi observed that some aspects of the investigation were not properly conducted.
The judge also also observed that the prosecution failed by the evidence brought before the court to establish a case of terrorism against the accused persons.
He held that the prosecution was wrong by not producing before the court either the ammunition recovered from No 3, Gaiya Road, Kano or the photographer who took pictures of the ammunition.
The judge further held that the prosecution could have, as an alternative, applied to have the court visit the Kano house and see the ammunition.
Justice Adeniyi was of the opinion that the failure by the prosecution to take any of the above steps makes the the photo evidence of the ammunition tendered inadmissible.
The judge also noted that the witness brought by the prosecution who conducted the search confessed that he was neither a forensic or ballistic expert.
While the judge was about to sentence Roda, defence lawyer, Ahmed Raji (SAN), pleaded him to be lenient and temper justice with mercy.
He said the convict co-orperated with the security agencies all through the trial and that he has lived his entire life in Nigeria.
Prosecution lawyer, Simon Egede, said though he shared the sentiment of the defence lawyer, the law must take its course, no matter what happened.
He said that the punishment for conspiracy is life imprisonment and he urged the court to follow the law in making its pronouncement.
The judge rose for about 45 minutes and when he resumed sitting announced the sentencing of the third accused person (Roda) to life imprisonment.
Justice Adeniyi held that the terrorism law, under which he was charged, provides for life imprisonment on conviction for conspiracy, and that the court has no discretion to vary it.
“I have listened to the allocutus of the defence counsel on the issue of sentencing.
“After I have read one or two authorities as to the provision where the accused was charged, it does not give room for judicial discretion.
“I, thereby, sentence the third accused person to life imprisonment on Counts 8 and 9 and both terms are to run concurrently”.
The judge ordered that both Amigo Supermarket and Wonderland Amusement Park be unsealed with immediate effect.
He added that the 61,170 US dollars seized from the second accused person (Thahini) be returned to him.
The judge also directed that all personal properties seized from the discharged persons and their relatives be returned to them forthwith.