‘Hidden hand’ in Durban bombings makes bail bid
Businessman Farhad Hoomer’s lawyer claims the state’s case is weak, and that bail is a must
A tenuously weak case underpinned by investigative bias and “sensationalism” were the main points of attack as businessman Farhad Hoomer – accused of being the hidden hand in an Islamic State-inspired mosque attack and a string of bombings in Durban – made his bid to be released on bail.
Advocate Jimmy Howse, representing Hoomer, on Tuesday chipped at the foundations of the state’s case against his client, saying the probability of a conviction was all but out of reach.
“He has proven that the state’s case against him is weak and, more importantly, it is not significantly stronger than the state’s case against Goolam Haffejee, who has already been released on bail.
“I’m hoping these parallels will be very instructive for the court. The weaker the case, the more likely the person is to honour his bail and stand trial,” Howse said.
Hoomer, 41, was arrested with 18 others in a counter-terror swoop by Hawks investigators on October 5.
Charges against seven of men have already been withdrawn and Hoomer’s co-accused, Goolam Haffejee, was released on R100,000 bail two weeks ago.
The 41-year-old businessman, along with Ahmed Haffejee‚ Thabit Mwenda‚ Mohamad Akbar‚ Seiph Mohamed‚ Amani Mayani‚ Abubakar Ali‚ Abbas Jooma‚ Mahammed Sobruin‚ Ndikumana Shabani and Iddy Omani, have been remanded in custody for nearly a month. All have applied for bail.
They stand accused of being aligned to terror group IS, with Hoomer the hidden hand orchestrating the fatal Verulam mosque attack in May and a series of firebomb attacks at retail outlets in the months that followed.
But Howse held that investigating officer Khwezi Chonco had tailored his evidence, claiming it was “plainly false”.
“He made the claim that the case is strong and even uses the term overwhelming to describe it. He goes beyond exaggeration and makes statements that are plainly false,” Howse said.
He said Chonco’s assertions belonged in the realm of opinion and had not been backed up by the investigating officer’s evidence.
“Cases of this nature really lend themselves to that sort of sensationalism, and it requires a fierce independence in the adjudication of facts.”
Howse said that in relation to the knife attack at the mosque – from which the most serious charges against Hoomer had emanated – there was no direct evidence to inculpate his client.
“The highest the state can put it is that his [Hoomer’s] dead wife’s cellphone was repeating off a tower in the vicinity of the mosque. Drawing the inference that they were involved in the mosque attack does not hold water.”
He said the presence of the phones alone could not categorically say they had a hand in the attack.
“The cellphone linkage is not enough,” Howse added.
On Hoomer’s alleged links to Isis, Howse moved to qualify a picture of his client wearing a beanie with the terror group’s emblem, which had been included in the state’s evidence.
“The emblem has been in existence long before it was adopted by the Islamic State and actually bears the seal of the Prophet Muhammad,” he said.
Addressing Chonco’s earlier evidence that police had seized a white Hyundai Getz, similar to one said to have been used in the mosque attack and registered to Hoomer, Howse accused the policeman of misleading the court.
“Mr Hoomer had the foresight and resources to prove that the evidence is false. Firstly, the vehicle recovered is not a Hyundai Getz but is a Hyundai i20, which is a totally different car. One cannot mistake one for the other.
“That vehicle was only purchased in July, well after the mosque attack. The linkage by the investigating officer is totally misleading. It is a sad day when a policeman makes allegations such as these and then uses them to underscore the assertion that the case against Mr Hoomer is overwhelming.
“It is not a savoury situation at all. It leaves the state’s case nowhere. All they have is the ridiculously thin cellphone linkage.”
The advocate said Hoomer, who has two wives, was a primary caregiver to three children, had demanding work commitments and had such strong financial ties to the community that he would never evade his trial.
The bail proceedings will continue on November 6.