Boko Haram suspects finally get their day in court
The suspects with materials believed to have been used in making IEDs. But Umar had already done himself no favours. He had pleaded not guilty yet described himself as an “Islamic warrior” and a “commander of the Islamic army”. Curious faces peered around the door or through the window to catch a glimpse of the defendant, who like the hundreds of others was barefoot and wearing orange overalls. Seemingly inevitably, the judge found him guilty and sentenced him to five lengthy jail terms, to run concurrently: – Seven years for failing to disclose information about Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau; – 15 years for being a Boko Haram member; – 15 years for receiving terrorism training; – 30 years for involvement in a failed suicide car bomb attack on a secondary school in Gombe state. – 60 years for taking part in a series of deadly attacks in Borno state. “I would have been more merciful but was dissuaded by the convict’s insistence that he would go back to the activities which constitute a danger to society and for which he was apprehended,” the judge added. Umar, who was arrested in 2014 aged just 18, remained impassive and even rejected an offer to plead for leniency. “I have already said all I have to say,” he told the court. “I have nothing to say again.” With that, he was taken away. – Opening up – Boko Haram’s bloody quest to establish a hardline Islamic state in remote northeast Nigeria over the last nine years has its own grim accounting. At least 20,000 have been killed and more than 2.6 million others made homeless by violence that has spilled across the border into Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Now, 1,669 other people can be added to the list of statistics. They comprise the men, but also some women and children, who were arrested as Boko Haram suspects. Nigeria was widely criticised for holding them and thousands of other civilians for years without even a sight of a lawyer or a courtroom. Held at the Kainji barracks in central Niger state, their cases finally began last October, initially behind closed doors at four specially-constituted civilian courts at the army facility. This week, access restrictions were lifted and the media and public got a rare first glimpse of those being held — and the charges against them.
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