3 Suspected Hizbullah Members Cleared of Nigeria Terror Charges

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Three Lebanese nationals suspected of being Hizbullah members were cleared of terrorism charges in Nigeria on Friday but one of the accused was convicted of a weapons offence and jailed for life.

Mustapha Fawaz, Abdallah Thahini and Talal Ahmad Roda were arrested in May after the discovery of an arms cache in a residence in the northern Nigerian city of Kano.

They were accused of plotting attacks against Western and Israeli targets in Nigeria but denied the accusations.

Federal High Court Judge Adeniyi Adetokunbo Ademola said Hizbullah "is not an international terrorist organization in Nigeria" and therefore membership is not criminal.

He said there was "no evidence" that the group was planning an attack or had received "terrorism training" as the prosecution alleged.

All three men were also acquitted of money laundering charges.

But Roda was found guilty of conspiracy to import weapons into the country and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Defense lawyer for all three men Ahmed Raji told reporters after the hearing: "We are happy and slightly not comfortable with respect to the third accused (Roda).

"The most important thing is that the grave aspect of the charges, that is terrorism, was knocked out. We are happy about that."

Raji said he would consult with Roda about a possible appeal against his conviction and sentence and added: "Speaking for myself, I think an appeal is worthwhile."

The trial featured several unexpected twists, including a testimony from Roda that an extremist cell in Nigeria had plotted to assassinate the Saudi ambassador.

In August, Fawaz testified that he had been harshly interrogated by Israeli security agents after his arrest.

He said the grilling was carried out by "six Israeli Mossad agents and one masked white man" who were primarily concerned with his contacts in Lebanon and demanded details of where weapons were stored in his home country.

Thahini testified that he collapsed after being denied sleep for five days in a similar interrogation by purported Israeli agents.

Israel raised concerns over alleged efforts by Hizbullah members to plan attacks in west Africa after the group was arrested.

Fawaz owns a popular amusement park in the capital Abuja called Wonderland, which the court ordered should be re-opened after the ruling.

He and Thahini were immediately released while Fawaz was escorted away in handcuffs, an Agence France Presse reporter in the court said.

Nigerian intelligence agents escorted journalists to a property in Kano on May 30 and showed them a bunker where a massive haul of weapons had been stored.

The spy chief in Kano, Bassey Etang, described the room as a "Hizbullah armory" -- a statement that raised eyebrows among some analysts.

He said investigations were needed to uncover potential links between the "Hizbullah cell" and Boko Haram, the extremist Islamist group that has killed thousands in northern Nigeria since 2009.

There had previously never been any discussion of a connection between the party and the Nigerian insurgents and experts voiced strong doubts that such ties existed.

The court verdict is a fresh blow to Nigeria's main intelligence branch, the Department of State Services, which in September claimed that Boko Haram attacked troops outside a government building in Abuja.

Subsequent evidence, however, suggested the clash involved security officers and a group of squatters.

In a separate matter, Caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour was informed by Lebanon's Charge d'Affairs in Abuja that Hassan Mohammed Merhi, a Lebanese national, has died of natural causes in Nigeria.

"The transfer of his body to Beirut is being arranged," the diplomat said.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, is home to a sizable Lebanese population, including in the mainly Muslim north.

Comments 16
Thumb benzona 29 November 2013, 15:49

Very good! Now if Hezbollah is innocent of Hariri's assassination they will be cleared at the Hague next year.

Missing nuetral 29 November 2013, 16:09

The Mossad was involved in making these charges in the first place.These guys were innocent.

Thumb sevilla 29 November 2013, 16:17

Mossad was involved, but you forgot to mention KSA?

Thumb sevilla 29 November 2013, 16:15

What a load of ...... What about the huge cache of weapons they confiscated from these terrorists and were shown all over? Corruption at its best. Guilty Guilty Guilty

Missing nuetral 29 November 2013, 16:26

Take a look at the weapons they are almost 30 years old and useless.The house they rented is owned by an ex army general, and the weapons were buried deep underground.They have nothing to do with these weapons I can assure you.I was born there and I know.

Thumb _mowaten_ 29 November 2013, 16:56

lol theresistance :)

nuetral: thought the same, looks like some rusty WWII leftovers... i think the nigerian army just "found" it there and invited journalists for a very "candid" show...

Thumb _mowaten_ 29 November 2013, 17:23

phoenix i think your perception is a result of the massive propaganda campaign against HA.
clearly hezbollah says what it does and does what it says. when it decided to help border villages, it said it, when it intervened in qusayr, it was out in the open, when they took on the defense of sayida zaynab they clearly announced it, when they sent the ayyoub drone over israel they claimed it loud and clear, when they had martyrs they made the biggest funeral processions etc etc...

Thumb _mowaten_ 29 November 2013, 17:24

however in the mean time there are the most random accusations being constantly thrown against HA everyday, systematically pointing at some "hidden hand" acting in the shadows, playing on people's paranoia and imagination. and when people believe those (despite the lack of any sort of evidence) they have the impression that HA is hiding stuff.
seriously now, look at the picture above, what on earth would HA be doing with that pile of rusty tank shells!?!? and in nigeria of all place, like they dont even have tactical or strategic interests there! it make no sense whatsoever and the nigerians themselves ended up admitting they had no case. akel 7awa man!

Missing nuetral 29 November 2013, 16:30

Casper, I do not belong to any party,so to mention KSA or not does not interest me or my way of thinking.I am only stating what I know first hand.

Thumb FlameCatcher 29 November 2013, 17:16

@Southern : There is no Hezbollah Military Wing. Hassan himself said that !

Hezbollah once again is a Terrorist Jihadist Extremist Iranian organisation. You are incapable of proving me wrong and evade this statement everytime.

Hell, Hezbollah built it's popularity on Suicide Bombers. Isn't this what terrorists do ? You got a taste of your own poison (which is horrible for all the victims)...

And don't talk about INJUSTICE when you do not believe in LAW and JUSTICE other than Islamic law of hatred and death and mistreatment of women!

Thumb _mowaten_ 29 November 2013, 17:29

what is unjust is accusing HA of it, when there is no evidence besides the "circumstancial" hot air that the STL took 8 years to fabricate.
i cant believe anyone would believe a word the STL says, it is so clearly a political tool in the hands of the countries that are on israel's side (US, FRANCE, GERMANY, UK...) and therefore absolutely not neutral. you think big powers care about justice and truth? all they know is their own interests and they play the masses to get what they want, as they always did throughout history.

Thumb FlameCatcher 29 November 2013, 17:38

I prefer to take 8 years to build a case against Hezbollah rather than have people like Hezbollah "automatically" accuse Israel or anyone else without any investigation.

That's the difference between seriously handling a case and bullshit.

Without any proof, Iran accused Israel of being behind the embassy bombing when it was clear it is not the case.

And Hezbollah refuses to submit the "evidence they have" incriminating Israel in Hariri's murder. Why is that ?

There is no such thing as "fabricating" evidence. Not at this scale, and certainly not something "they" can get away with it. It is easy to demonstrate whether or not evidence is fabricated.

And please tell me why the first thing that happens after a bomb is "parties" going there to "destroy" evidence like in Hariri's killing ! This is Israel ???

Thumb FlameCatcher 29 November 2013, 17:45

@Mowaten : "there is no evidence besides the "circumstancial" hot air"

Do you even know what "circumstantial" mean ? Did you see the evidence before judging them to be "circumstantial" ?

Do you think the trials would have started if the evidence was only "circumstantial" ?

Do you deny Hezbollah had the "will", "motive", "means" to murder Hariri ?

In real trials, it can take up to 20 years to build a solid case against war crimes and such assassinations.

There is literally several TONS of evidence which you are more than welcome to discredit in court. This is exactly what a court is for.

If the court were in Lebanon, we would have a mass grave of judges like usual or payoffs. You wouldn't believe in the Lebanese court system anyway... Would you prefer to conduct the trial in Syria or Iran ?

Thumb FlameCatcher 29 November 2013, 17:58

@Sagh : when you break your alliance with Syria and Hezbollah and decide that you will no longer take orders from Bashar el Assad. And that you will no longer accept a paramilitary organisation in Lebanon.

You give every single motive for both to eliminate Harriri !

First Bashar threatens to break Lebanon on Hariri's head (for not accepting to extend Lahoud), then he orders his assassination.

Bashar ordered it, Iran approved it, Hezbollah executed it !

Give me Israels motive ! Show me your poorly imagined conspiracy theory ! Why would they eliminate their biggest indirect "ally" against hezbollah and make those stronger ? They know you cannot eliminate Hezbollah by "framing them". They cannot even eliminate them by force !

Thumb lebpatriot777 29 November 2013, 22:41

This is another blow to the March 14 cannibal terrorist propaganda machine who would love to eat Hizbollah warriors for dinner (the cannibals that they are). When this fabricated story came out, all the March 14 cannibals on this site began to drool. Poor darlings, the perseverance of Hizbollah will give all if you heart attacks very soon.

Missing peace 29 November 2013, 23:37