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By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – Justice R.A Mohammed of a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, yesterday, ordered trial-within-trial in the terrorism charge against two Nigerians, Abdullahi Mustapha Berende and Saidi Adewumi, accused of recruiting new members for an Iran based terrorist organization.
The two accused persons were said to have collected the sum of 3000 Euros and $20, 000 from the terrorist group in order to source and train terrorist-minded Nigerians fluent in English language.
According to a six count charge preferred against them by the Federal Government, the duo, had on or before September 2011 and December 2012, at Tehran in Iran, rendered support to the group via provision of materials and terrorism trainings on use of firearms and other weapons.
FG told the court that some of the persons that benefited from their training, among whom included Suleiman Olayinka Sake and Aminu Mohammed Yusuf, are currently at large.
Their alleged offence is punishable under section 5(1) and 8 of the Terrorism Prevention Act, 2013.
The accused persons who were on August 28, remanded in the custody of the Department of State Services, DSS, yesterday, denied the content of confessional statements they made before the security agency, saying they were coerced into amking the statements.
They made the denial shortly after the Federal Government, produced its first witness, Mr James Eneh Izih, a Chief investigative officer with the DSS, to testify against them.
In his testimony, the masked witness told the court that the duo were separately apprehended on December 17 and 24, 2012.
He said whereas the 1st accused person, Berende, was arrested in Illorin, Kwara State, the 2nd accused, was apprehended at Alagbado Station in Ifo Local Government Area, Ogun State.
The witness told the court that several incriminating items were recovered from their houses, including the sum of $5, 800 which he said was found in the residence of the 1st accused.
Also recovered from the accused persons were media gadgets which the witness said indicted the accused persons after it was subjected to forensic analysis.
However, at the point of tendering separate statements that were made by the 1st accused person on February 8, 25 and that of the 2nd accused person made on January 15, 2013, the defence team, led by Mr M.I Hanafi, raised an objection to their admissibility into evidence, relying on section 29 of the Evidence Act.
Sequel to the development, government lawyer, Mrs Chioma Onwuegbu, urged the court to order for a trial-within-trial so as to ascertain whether the accused persons made the statements voluntarily or not, an application that was not opposed by the defence lawyers.
It will be recalled that the court had earlier barred members of the public from attending the trial, exempting only lawyers involved in the case and accredited journalists.
The Federal Government alleged that Abdullahi, while in Iran, had information to commit terrorism acts but concealed such information from security operatives, and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 8(1) of the Terrorism Prevention Act 2011 as amended.
Count three stated that the 1st accused person had at Tehran and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, UAE, collected foreign currencies in US Dollars and Euros to aid and abate the commission of terrorism acts, contrary to Section 13(1) (a) of the Terrorism Prevention Act 2011 and punishable under the same Act.
Abdullahi was equally accused in count four of recruiting persons for an Iranian terrorist organization an offence the Federal Government said it violated Section 10 of the Terrorism Prevention Act.
In count five and six, Abdullahi and Adewumi, were accused of conspiring to commit terrorism Act in Lagos in September 2011, an offence contrary to Section 17 of the Terrorism Prevention Act, 2011, saying technological devices, including cameras, were found on them contrary to Section 12 of the TPA, 2011.