The brother of suspected Nigerian militant leader Henry Okah and three others have been charged with treason for their alleged involvement in twin car bombings in the capital Abuja two months ago.
The October 1 blasts, which killed at least 10 people near to an independence day parade, were claimed by the Movement of the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the main militant group in the country’s southern oil heartland.
“The offence for which the accused persons are being charged is treason. It’s the highest offence in criminal jurisprudence,” said Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court, before reading out the 9-count charges, Reuters reports.
“It’s important that the accused persons have a transparent and fair trial,” he said.
The accused — named as Henry Okah’s brother Charles, Obi Nwabueze, Edmund Ebiware and Tiemkemfa Francis Osvwo — all pleaded not guilty. They were remanded in the custody of the State Security Service (SSS) pending a December 15 bail hearing.
Henry Okah is in detention in Johannesburg, where he faces conspiracy and terrorism charges relating to the Abuja bombs. South African prosecutors and police say Henry Okah, who is resident in South Africa, was the mastermind of the bombings. He has denied any involvement.
The attacks raised security concerns in Africa’s most populous nation as it prepares for presidential, parliamentary and state governorship elections next April. MEND has warned of further attacks in the Niger Delta, home to Africa’s biggest oil and gas industry, where the military is on an offensive to flush out militant camps.