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The BBC's Sola Odunfa
"The day's drama began when Hamza al-Mustapha entered the box"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 28 November, 2000, 13:19 GMT
Abiola witness death threats
Major Hamza al-Mustapha at the human rights commission
Major Mustapha was Sani Abacha's security aide
Nigeria's Human Rights Commission is considering allowing a key witness to testify in closed session - he says his evidence concerns issues of national security.


I expect a bullet while I speak

Hamza al-Mustapha
Major Hamza al-Mustapha, a senior official in the former military government of Sani Abacha, had been giving evidence on Monday about the death in custody of Moshood Abiola, the man widely believed to have won the presidential election in 1993 which was annulled by the military.

Mr Mustapha said he and family members had received death threats because of his appearance before the commission.

The head of the inquiry, retired supreme court judge Chukwudifu Oputa, said the panel would consider Mr Mustapha's application for a closed hearing when they had a written summary of the evidence he intended to give.

"First let us have the evidence of the information to be testified by the witness, so that the commission will then decide whether it borders on national security or not," he said.

'Fantasist'

"I expect a bullet while I speak," Mr Mustapha told the commission, saying he had been told the people he was preparing to expose had planned to kill him at the hearing.

Moshood Abiola
Moshood Abiola: Died one month after Sani Abacha
Mr Mustapha, one of former military ruler Sani Abacha's most powerful aides, is currently on trial on two murder charges and one charge of attempted murder.

He has been named as a torturer by a number of petitioners to the commission, allegations he denies.

Some of his unsubstantiated allegations, notably about hitherto unknown coup plots, have been described as fantasies by his opponents.

Cared for Abiola

Mr Mustapha told the commission that he took personal responsibility for Mr Abiola's safety because there were several plots to abduct him.

He said he moved Mr Abiola to a different location in order to save his life.

Mr Mustapha then asked to be allowed to give the rest of his evidence in closed session because he said it had to do with national security.

Earlier, Mr Abiola's physician told the commission that it was the policy of the former military government that Mr Abiola would not come out of custody alive.

He said acts of physical and psychological torture ultimately led to Mr Abiola's death.

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See also:

21 Nov 00 | Africa
Businessman 'beaten 300 times'
03 Sep 99 | Africa
Nigeria: A history of coups
20 Oct 00 | Business
London implicated in Abacha probe
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