- Title: NIGERIA: Defence rests for Lebanese accused of being Hezbollah
- Date: 5th August 2013
- Summary: ABUJA, NIGERIA (AUGUST 5, 2013) (REUTERS) (MUTE) SUSPECTS LEAVING COURTROOM SUSPECTS BEING CARRIED AWAY IN SECURITY VEHICLES
- Embargoed: 20th August 2013 13:00
- Location: Nigeria
- Country: Nigeria
- Topics: General
- Reuters ID: LVA9IQM4T4IRAAJLS3YFAISIKMG8
- Story Text: Three Lebanese nationals facing trial in Nigeria for having links to Islamist militant group Hezbollah appeared in court on Monday (August 5) to give their closing arguments.
The three suspects were arrested between May 16 and May 28 in the north's biggest city Kano.
A raid on the residence of one of the Lebanese had uncovered arms and ammunition which Nigerian authorities said were targeted at facilities of Israel and Western interest in Nigeria.
While on the witness stand, two of the suspects said they were forced to make false statements while in detention after their arrests that they were part of Hezbollah.
They also added that for 14 days they were interrogated by Israeli's Mossad.
Mustapha Fawaz, one of the Hezbollah suspects, said they wanted to make an example of them so that Hezbollah will not think of carrying attacks in Nigeria and Africa.
The defence counsel, in its closing arguments, denied the Lebanese nationals' involvement with the terrorist group, the counsel to the defence, Ahmed Raji, said.
"It has been shown that there is no case against them," he said.
"Whatever grey areas they have explained in their testimonies and most importantly we have shown that they don't know anything about the arms and the only gun found in Amigo has license, which is a hunting gun, they have a license for it," he told Reuters Television.
"And they are saying that they are members of the Hezbollah, they have said that they are not members and that they do not belong to the military wing," he added.
"And more importantly, Hezbollah or any of its organs has not been designated a terrorist organisation in Nigeria under the law," he said.
Raji also added that he is delighted for the speedy trial which is unique for criminal cases in the West African country.
"I think the court has done a wonderful job to have heard the matter within one month and then to have adjourned for adoption for another, less than sixty days. In the history of criminal trials in Nigeria, this is one of the fastest," he said.
Mustapha Fawaz solicited for his closed businesses in Nigeria's capital, Abuja to be re-opened due to millions of dollars already invested.
A motion will be adopted when Nigeria's judiciary resumes from its break in September.
The Lebanese suspects, Mustapha Fawaz, Abdullah Tahini and Talal Roda were transferred to Kuje prisons from the custody of the State Security Service on Friday (August 2).
Authorities believe there has been a growing involvement of al-Qaeda-linked foreign jihadists in Nigeria's insurgency.
An alliance between Salafist Sunni Muslim Boko Haram and Shi'ite Hezbollah would be unusual, and there has never previously been evidence of such a link.
Though most Nigerian Muslims are Sunni, there are several thousand Shi'ite Nigerians, a legacy of Muslim radical Ibrahim Zakzaky's preachings since the 1980s.
Zakzaky still leads Nigeria's main Shi'ite movement and has campaigned for an Islamic government and stricter adherence to Sharia law.
A Nigerian court sentenced an alleged member of Iran's Revolutionary Guard and a Nigerian accomplice to five years in prison two months ago over an illegal shipment of mortars and rockets seized in the main port of Lagos in 2010.
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