Durban terror bombs ‘bear signature of the accused’
Prosecutor hits back after defence claims state case against 12 alleged Isis acolytes is feeble
Much like a trail of footprints in the sand, the incendiary devices that were planted in a wave of attacks across Durban left evidence of the hands that made them.
This was the drive by specialist prosecutor Adele Barnard as she set out the strength of the evidence against 12 alleged Islamic State acolytes who stand accused of orchestrating the fatal Verulam mosque attack in May and the terror-inspired spate of bombings that followed.
Barnard’s push came during closing arguments in a mass bail application by the 12 in the Verulam Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday, as she attempted to rebut claims by defence counsel that her case was feeble.
“The devices all bear the same signature ... they are identical in construction, and that is enough for it to be admissible,” she told magistrate Irfaan Khalil.
Bombs often bear the signature of those who made them, and the construction of the devices recovered from the mosque, shopping outlets and, eventually, the house where the 12 were eventually tracked down were so similar in their composition that they were likely to be assembled by the same group.
This link – the tying together of the attacks at the mosque, the shopping centres and its group of suspects – would be a central pillar upon which the state would base its case.
She said the evidence against the 12 was robust, and that it should be considered in context and not the piecemeal nature in which defence counsel had singled it out to attack its strength.
“The state’s case has been referred to as weak and that is simply not the case.
“The facts before this court tell a different story and we are not asking for a finding of guilt at this stage, but the state does have a strong prima facie case against the accused.
“One must have regard to the totality of the evidence. There is a strong circumstancial case to be made,” Barnard added.
Her rebuttal had been targeted primarily at evidence put forth by Durban businessman Farhad Hoomer, who is accused of being the mastermind and “leader” of the group loyal to Isis.
Hoomer, 41, was arrested with 18 others in a counter-terror swoop by Hawks investigators on October 5.
Hoomer – along with Ahmed Haffejee‚ Thabit Mwenda‚ Mohamad Akbar‚ Seiph Mohamed‚ Amani Mayani‚ Abubakar Ali‚ Abbas Jooma‚ Mahammed Sobruin‚ Ndikumana Shabani and Iddy Omani – has been remanded in custody for nearly a month. All applied for bail.
Charges against seven of the men have already been withdrawn and Hoomer’s co-accused, Goolam Haffejee, was released on R100,000 bail.
Last week, Hoomer, through advocate Jimmy Howse, moved to highlight the weakness of the state’s case and showcase an “exceptional circumstance” that would warrant his release on bail.
Howse held that the case against his client was devoid of direct evidence and underpinned by investigative bias. His withering assault went on to accuse the state of being sensationalist by invoking the spectre of Isis.
But on Tuesday Barnard hit back.
“There is totality of evidence and one needs to the see the complete picture to understand the strength of the state’s case.
“There will be a huge amount of evidence brought forward,” she said.
She zeroed in on “terror propaganda” that had been found on electronic devices belonging to Hoomer.
“Why would one download a manual on how to make bombs or how to construct a cellphone detonator? Why would one download this if he never intended to use them? This is not leisure reading,” she said.
“All of the materials found on his phone are used for propaganda and recruitment. In isolation, the defence say that it is simply reading material, but not against the backdrop of context and all the other circumstantial evidence.”
Further arguments in the bail bid will continue on Wednesday.