It's all about the DNA - and the bomb suspects who refuse to provide it
An AWOL Swahili interpreter stalls case against Durban terror accused, but prosecutor vows it's far from over
Traces of DNA on bombs planted across Durban and carefully gathered by forensic detectives may become crucial evidence against a now thwarted terror syndicate.
On Monday the state provisionally withdrew charges against seven of 19 men they say conspired to orchestrate a wave of bombings in the city and a bloody knife attack at the Imam Hussain Mosque in Verulam in May.
Nashir Sayid, Hakim Hatunguman, Tariq Karrim, Alrich Brown, Alimasi Abele, Alibar Umar and Naadir Khan walked free after witnesses to the attacks could not point them out in an identity parade last week.
While clearly buoyed by their imminent release, specialist prosecutor advocate Adele Barnard said the seven could still have investigators knocking on their doors.
The men had refused to provide DNA samples to police, something Barnard told the court would either eliminate them as suspects or confirm their involvement in the spate of attacks.
She’d brought an application to have magistrate Irfaan Khalil compel the men to provide DNA samples – a move rendered ineffectual by a truant Swahili interpreter who had disappeared from the court precinct.
Without him on hand to translate – and thereby infringing on what must be a fair trial that they all understand – the hearing into whether or not they should be forced to provide samples could not go ahead.
A clearly irked Barnard said that while the charges against the cohort were withdrawn, she would forge ahead with the court bid to force the handover of DNA samples.
The bullish prosecutor added that the seven could expect a visit from investigators if her application was successful.
An eighth man, 37-year-old Goolam Haffejee, was released on R100,000 bail after he too could not be identified by witnesses.
In an affidavit before the court, investigating officer Khwezi Chonco said the father of four had cropped up in their investigation as having played a central role in the Verulam mosque attack.
“According to our investigations he is linked [to the attack on the mosque] with cellphone evidence which is still to be confirmed by service providers,” he said.
In his own version in support of his bid for freedom while awaiting trial, the Parlock man said he intended pleading not guilty to all of the charges he faced.
As conditions of his bail, granted by Khalil, he may not contact any state witnesses, nor leave the province without Chonco’s written permission. He and 19 others were arrested in a series of raids orchestrated by the Hawks’ Crimes Against the State Unit last week. The team also rescued a Tanzanian man, shackled and alone in the dark underground pit.
The man survived on little more than a banana a day in a dramatic hostage drama that spanned three weeks after he was abducted from his Umbilo business premises and bundled into a car by a gang of armed men.
It is understood that when the Hawks raided a Reservoir Hills home as part of their swoop, the emaciated and wounded man was found bound in what was described as a dungeon.
Farhad Hoomer, Ahmed Haffejee, Thabit Mwenda, Mohammed Akbar, Mohammed Seidth, Amani Mayan, Abubakari Ali, Abasi Juma, Muhammed Sobrun and Omar Iddy remain behind bars. They are expected to appear in court again on Monday after the services of a more reliable interpreter have been secured. Hoomer and Haffejee are expected to apply for bail.
The 12 alleged conspirators face charges of murder, arson and now additional counts under the Protection of Constitutional Democracy against Terrorist and Related Activities Act.
The liberated Haffejee will return to court on November 29.