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Accused Nigeria rebel leader given amnesty in treason case

[JURIST] Accused Nigerian rebel leader Henry Okah was released on Monday after the government dropped treason and gun trafficking charges against him. The government alleges that Okah is the leader of the rebel group Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) [BBC backgrounder], which has been conducting armed attacks against oil production facilities in the delta. Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua [BBC profile] agreed to grant unconditional pardon to MEND members that laid down their arms as part of a June amnesty agreement [Daily Independent report] intended to lead to a cessation of hostilities. Also on Monday, MEND claimed responsibility [VOA report] for an attack on an oil transfer dock in Lagos, its first attack outside of the Niger Delta region and a sign that some MEND members do not plan to accept amnesty [BBC report].

In April 2008, Okah was formally charged [JURIST report] with treason in a closed court hearing after a secret February extradition. He was arrested in Angola in September 2007 after attempting to buy weapons and explosives. MEND has attacked [BBC backgrounder] pipelines, refineries and oil workers in an attempt to force changes in the distribution of wealth generated by Nigeria's petroleum industry.

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