Lawyer, family visit suspected Niger Delta rebel leader
( AFP ) - The suspected leader of a Niger Delta oil rebel group is alive and well, a lawyer said Sunday, after weeks of uncertainty about his fate since being extradited from Angola to Nigeria on treason charges.
Henry Okah, 42, suspected of being one of the leaders of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and Edward Atatah, 43, had been without contact with lawyers or relatives since their extradition from Angola on February 14.
"We have finally been able to meet the two prisoners, this morning," lawyer Femi Falana told AFP after meeting the pair at a police station in Jos, the capital of Plateau State in central Nigeria.
A week after their extradition, the Abuja High court ordered authorities to allow Okah and Atatah to receive visits from their lawyers, doctors and relatives.
The delayed access to the pair had raised fears among their lawyers, relatives and human rights bodies that they were being tortured, but Falana said they had not been physically harmed.
"They have had no single contact with the outside world, so that's enough in terms of mental torture, but physically they were in good condition, they weren't tortured," he said.
"They were not aware of any charges brought against them. Both of them don't know where they are kept," he said, adding that they were seeking a quick court appearance so they could be released on bail.
Okah's brother, Charles, told AFP his brother had met last August in South Africa with Nigerian vice-president Goodluck Jonathan and had concluded some sort of a deal under which "he wouldn't be arrested as part of the peace process."
Charles Okah added that all charges against his brother had been fabricated.
He said his brother is "alive and well, in excellent spirit, strong and resolute."
Prosecutors on Wednesday said the two would be charged with treason, terrorism as well as illegal possession of firearms and arms trafficking.
The next hearing in the case has been set for April 9.
Until his arrest in Angola in September 2007, Okah was believed to have been MEND's spokesman, using the pseudonym Jomo Gbomo.
MEND, the most prominent of Nigeria's armed groups says unlike criminal gangs operating in southern volatile Niger Delta region, it is fighting for a more equitable share of oil revenue for the local population.
Since 2006, attacks on oil companies have been so prevalent that Nigeria, the world's eighth exporter of crude, has lost one quarter of its 2.6 million barrels per day output.