Nigerian court acquits Lebanese nationals on terror charges, targeting US, Israeli interests

Suspected Hezbollah members claim to have been interrogated by the Mossad in Nigeria following arrest.

nigeria security with hezbollah seized ammunition 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
nigeria security with hezbollah seized ammunition 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Three Lebanese nationals accused of being Hezbollah members and of plotting attacks against Western and Israeli targets in Nigeria were acquitted of terrorism charges in Nigeria on Friday.
However, one of the accused was convicted of a weapons charge and given a life sentence, AFP reported.
Mustapha Fawaz, Abdallah Thaini and Talal Ahmad Roda were arrested in May on suspicion of of being members of Hezbollah, and a raid on one of their residences revealed a stash of heavy weapons.
Following their arrest, police in Nigeria said that all of the suspects had admitted to being members of Hezbollah under questioning.
A raid on the residence of one of the men had uncovered 11 60 mm. anti-tank weapons, four anti-tank land mines, two rounds of ammunition for a 122 mm. artillery gun, 21 rocket-propelled grenades, 17 AK-47s with more than 11,000 bullets and some dynamite.
“The arms and ammunition were targeted at facilities of Israel and Western interest in Nigeria,” Captain Ikedichi Iweha said following their arrest, without elaborating. Iweha is the military spokesman for the city of Kano, the northern Nigerian town where the men were arrested.
In his decision, Federal High Court Judge Adeniyi Adetokunbo Ademola said Hezbollah “is not an international terrorist organization in Nigeria,” and therefore membership is not criminal, AFP quoted him as saying.
He said there was “no evidence” that the group was planning an attack or had received “terrorism training” as the prosecution claimed.
But the accused Roda was found guilty of conspiracy to import weapons into the country and sentenced to life imprisonment.
The former terror suspects claimed in court in August that Israeli intelligence agents had used excessive interrogation methods on them following their arrest.
According to Fawaz, “During the 14 days of interrogation, I was interrogated by six Israeli Mossad agents and one masked white man.”
Also in August, Paul Hirschson, a spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, told The Jerusalem Post that Hezbollah was using the sovereign territory of Nigeria, Cyprus and Bulgaria for its activities as an “international terrorist organization.”
He declined to comment on the report about the suspects alleging Mossad interrogations, saying that the “focus should not be on random allegations,” but on showing how Hezbollah has “perpetuated terrorism” in other countries.
Speaking outside the court on Friday, Mustapha Fawaz told reporters he felt vindicated.
“We have lived in Nigeria for most of our lives ... We have invested so much in Nigeria,” he said. “Anybody who invests billions of naira [hundreds of thousands of dollars] in a place will not be interested in destroying it.”
Benjamin Weinthal and Reuters contributed to this report.