Lobby For Extradition Of Hezbollah Suspects Worries Federal Govt
Jonathan, Security Chiefs Meet
Court Orders SSS, Police To Produce Suspects
President Goodluck Jonathan Monday met with service chiefs and other members of the security council to consider a brewing diplomatic crisis threw up by the arrest of some Lebanese businessmen and their accomplices for alleged involvement in terrorism.
THISDAY checks revealed that the meeting was called against the backdrop of moves by countries sympathetic to Hezbollah, for which the suspects were accused of working for, to seek their extradition from Nigeria to prevent them from going on trial in the country.
The State Security Service (SSS) and the military had arrested in Kano, four Lebanese – Mustapha Fawaz, Abdalah Tahini, Tala Ahmed Rouda and Khosai Nouridine – for illegal stockpiling of sophisticated weapons in a house in Kano and their business premises in Abuja. The suspects were accused of being part of a Hezbollah terrorist cell in Nigeria working to attack American and Israeli targets in the country.
The SSS was also said to have discovered more arms cache in Amigo Supermarket and Wonderland Amusement Park in Abuja, which belong to some of the suspects, and sought the president’s permission to demolish the supermarket.
However, the suspects headed for the Federal High Court, seeking N50 billion in damages from the federal government for their unlawful arrest and detention without trial.
The court Monday ordered the SSS, the Inspector General of Police (IG) and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) to produce Fawaz, the owner of the supermarket, and others in custody in connection with the case.
It was learnt that the matter engaged the attention of the security council at an emergency meeting held at the State House.
THISDAY learnt that the meeting was convened to stave off a possible diplomatic row that could pit Nigeria against backers of the Lebanon-based Hezbollah.
The security chiefs, comprising the service chiefs, the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), the IG and the Director General of the SSS, after the meeting declined to speak with State House reporters on their deliberations.
But a security source told THISDAY that the meeting was prompted by moves by Jordan, acting on behalf of other Hezbollah allies, to, through the back channel, lobby the federal government to extradite the suspected terrorists to Lebanon for trial.
The source, who was privy to the deliberations of the security chiefs, told THISDAY that Jonathan sought their advice on the issue.
He explained that Hezbollah, through its sponsors in Iran and Syria, persuaded the Lebanese government to intervene in the matter by seeking the extradition of the offenders.
This, he added, was agreed upon but the Lebanese decided it would not act directly but solicited the assistance of Jordan to lobby for the extradition of the suspects.
“The president wanted to know what can be done to avoid a diplomatic row with the Middle-East countries that are patrons of these Lebanese.
“He also urged them to exploit means of soft-landing in the crisis in such a way that it will not have a boomerang effect on the efforts his administration is making to tackle the regime of insecurity that has hitherto threatened peace in some states of the North,” the source said.
“The Lebanese may have gone to court with the foreknowledge of this back door diplomatic manoeuvre that is trying to get them off the hook. So, now instead of getting scared that they will be prosecuted and possibly jailed, the Lebanese are now trying to play games with the federal government.
“If you notice, the presidency couldn’t expressly grant permission to the SSS to proceed legally with the demolition of Amigo,” the source explained.
Meanwhile, Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court in Abuja Monday ordered the SSS, the IG and the AGF to produce Fawaz and two other Lebanese suspected to have imported arms cache into the country for alleged terrorist activities.
The court directed the defendants to produce the suspects before it on June 13.
The judge gave the order following an ex-parte application by counsel to the suspects, including Chief Robert Clarke (SAN), Ahmed Raja (SAN) and 12 others.
The suspects had sued the three defendants, challenging their arrest and continued detention.
Out of the four prayers before the court, the trial judge only granted the request of the counsel to produce the suspects on June 13.