The Nigerian attorney general indicated last week that he will charge three members of Hezbollah on charges of terrorism as well as weapons smuggling.
The three Lebanese men were arrested in late May after being caught with a large cache of weapons in the town of Kano. Officials suspect the three were planning attacks on Israeli and US targets in the African country.
The AllAfrica website reported earlier this week that Mustapha Roda Darwish Fawaz, Talal Roda, and Abdulla Tahini told the court that the weapons found in a raid last month by the Military Joint Task Force were only “hunting rifles.” They also said their membership in Hezbollah should not carry terror charges as it did not raise the hackles of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.
According to the report, a search of their residence in Kano uncovered a bunker containing antitank weapons, rocket-propelled guns, antitank/antipersonnel mines and additional weapons.
“We have proof that the applicants belong to the military wing of Hezbollah which is a terrorist organization and in the coming days, this country will know more about them,” said state prosecutor Clifford Osagie, according to AllAfrica. “We urge this court to disregard their argument that what were recovered from them were hunting rifles. What we found were assorted weapons of terror and prohibited firearms.”
The suspects argued in their defense at the Federal High Court in Abuja that a leading member of their group, Hussein Hajj, had once shaken hands with Jonathan who, they claimed, was aware of Hajj’s affiliation with Hezbollah.
Their defense attorney also provided pictures of the meeting, which allegedly took place at the Aso Rock presidential complex in Abuja.
The three men pleaded that their affiliation with Hezbollah, which they described as a political organization, did not indicate that they were a threat to national security and demanded millions in compensation. Earlier reports put the value as the equivalent to about $6.2 million while AllAfrica reported the claim to be for 50 billion Nigerian naira, or about $310 million.
The federal government asked the court to reject the demand for compensation and stressed that more evidence was found proving the men belonged to the military wing of Hezbollah.
The Hezbollah party, based in Lebanon, has both a military and political wing, that latter of which holds several seats in the Lebanese parliament.
Israel and the US consider the group a terror organization, and Jerusalem has waged a campaign to have states in Europe and elsewhere label it as such as well.
The group is suspected to be behind a number of attacks against Israel over the last several years, including a bus bombing in Bulgaria that left five Israeli tourists and a local man dead.