A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, yesterday adjourned till April 3, the trial of a man alleged to be the leader of the Al-Qaeda criminal network in Nigeria. The man, Mohammed Ashafa, was first arraigned in 2006 for allegedly receiving money from Al-Qaeda operatives stationed in Lahore, Pakistan, to recruit and train militants whose main objective is to attack Americans in Nigeria. Ashafa was granted bail but re- arrested last August by operatives of the State Security Service (SSS). When the matter came up yesterday, Justice Adamu Bello threatened to strike out the case for lack of diligent prosecution, after Prosecuting Counsel Thompson Olatigbe asked for an adjournment on the ground that the accused person’s lawyer was absent. Ashafa said his lawyer was absent because he has never been allowed access to him. He told the court that he has been kept in an underground cell at the office of SSS since his arrest and asked to be sent back to prison.
He said: “They should take me back to prison. They don’t have any evidence against me and they won’t allow my lawyer to see me.” But Justice Bello said he cannot send Ashafa back to prison until he is properly arraigned before the court.