(Reuters) Kenya’s justice minister told Muslim leaders that rendition of bomb suspects to Uganda was illegal, seeking to allay fears within a community that fears being increasingly targeted by security agents. Mutula Kilonzo said the transfers, which have angered many Kenyans, violated the east African nation’s constitution. Kilonzo blames Kenya’s attorney general, whose office has the power to arrest and prosecute and oversees extraditions. To date the government has taken no overt steps to bring the suspects back to Kenya. Kilonzo says his ministry has done all it can and the next step lies with the attorney general.
Kenya has handed over 13 suspects in connection with a July 11 bomb attack on the Ugandan capital, Kampala, without following correct extradition procedures, rights groups say. A total of 38 people, including Ugandans, Kenyans and Somalis have been charged with terrorism over the twin suicide bombs that ripped through crowds watching the World Cup final in July, killing more than 70 people.
State Attorney Joan Kagezi had asked Chief Magistrate Deo Ssejjemba to release the suspects, because the public prosecution office had withdrawn the charges against them. Kagezi said that she had been told to drop the case, as the director of public prosecutions “has lost interest in prosecuting them because there is no sufficient evidence against them.” Two other men involved in the case, a human rights activist from Kenya, Al-Amin Kimathi, and another Kenyan, Omar Awadh Omar, who is suspected of being a terrorist, were remanded into custody until there is a review of their objection to the plan to transfer them back to the police for questioning. There are still 36 suspects detained in connection with the bombing.
In recent weeks dozens of Kenyans have been extradited over the suicide attack, which killed some 76 people. Ten of the 36 Kenyan suspects in total have been charged in connection with the attack.
Last week Human Rights Watch reported that two Kenyan activists working on the cases of suspects charged with terrorism for the July 11, 2010 Kampala bombings have been illegally detained in Uganda and are at risk of abuse. The Kenyan activists traveled to Uganda to attend the scheduled hearing of 34 terrorism suspects.
Kenyan police have long harassed Somalis, demanding bribes under threat of arrest or deportation, generating resentment. Since the Kampala attacks, police have rounded up hundreds of people in Eastleigh and other areas, including four Kenyan Muslims who human rights activists say were illegally extradited to Uganda for interrogation.
Related NY Times article on how al Shabab is increasingly looking like the Taliban.
The officials said that Kenya circumvented its own extradition laws to send the four suspects to Uganda, where they can be interrogated for a lengthy period without scrutiny.
“The fact that they are extralegally being moved looks like the Kenyans have devised reasons to circumvent the law,” said Al-Amin Kimathi, the chairman of the Muslim Human Rights Forum. “The end is not justice, the end is information gathering via all sorts of interrogation efforts.”
Lawyer Mbugua Mureithi, who represents the families of suspects, said no attempts were made by the Kenyan government to follow extradition procedures.
“Even more disturbing is that Uganda has not made a formal request to extradite the four nationals to Uganda,” he said.
A spokesman for Kenya’s government said Wednesday he did not have any immediate comment.
No arrest warrants exist in Kenya and nor do any court orders granting permission for the citizens to be removed from the country, Mureithi said. Kenyan authorities should have first charged the suspects in Kenya, he said. Instead, he charges that the removals amount to kidnapping.
Mureithi said the FBI and Kenyan police interrogated three of the suspects in Uganda after they were charged in court on July 30, violating their rights of a fair trial under Uganda’s constitution. Mureithi said he had visited the three last week who told him that they also have been interrogated by the FBI at least three times. Kimathi questioned further the failure by the Ugandan courts to arraign the suspects in court within 48 hours as it happened with the Uganda suspects. This he said was discriminatory.
A U.S. Embassy spokesman said Wednesday the U.S. is aiding the investigation but he did not have any immediate comment on the role the FBI was playing.
The four Kenyans — Hussein Hassan Agade, Idris Magondu, Mohamed Adan Abdow, and Mohamed Hamid Suleiman — were arrested from different locations in Kenya following the July 11 attack that killed 76 people as large crowds watched the World Cup final on TV.
Al-Shabab, a Somali group with links to al-Qaida, has claimed responsibility for the attacks and said it targeted Uganda because Ugandan troops belonging to an African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia have killed Somali civilians.
Suleiman’s family says he is innocent and was beaten by police during his arrest last Friday at their home. His supporters say he works as a tour agent, human rights worker and Arabic interpreter for the Kenyan courts.
Kimathi warned that such arrests will make more Muslim youths adopt radical views, which will in turn lead to more violence.
“There is radicalization of youth, especially Muslim youths, now who feel they are completely besieged by this,” he said. “They are fearful that anytime now, any day now, one of them might be grabbed in the wee hours of the morning shunted out to another country.”
National Muslim Leaders Forum Chairman Abdullahi Abdi, Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims Secretary General Adan Wachu his Council of Imams and Preacher of Kenya counterpart Sheikh Muhammad Dor, and Muslim Human Rights Forum Chairman Al Amin Kimathi expressed concern that following the bombings in Kampala, women, children and old people in Mombasa and Nairobi were harassed and intimidated by security forces.
Kimathi said the transfer of the four suspects was reminiscent of the arrests of 100 people of various nationalities who were fleeing violence in Somalia in 2007. Those arrested were flown back to Somalia and then to secret prisons in Ethiopia, where they were interrogated by the CIA and FBI. All those arrested in those swoops were set free within a year, but nine Kenyans remained in custody for more than a year before they were released.
They were among hundreds of people who were illegally detained and tortured during the government of President Daniel Arap Moi, who retired in 2002. His government always denied torture, but more than two decades ago, while he was still in power, 21 former prisoners tried to sue the administration for violating their fundamental rights.
At the time, the court ruled that the case could not continue while the government remained in office. So it is only now – eight years after Mr Moi retired – that the case has finally concluded.
In the 55-page judgment the High Court, held that the victims’ rights and freedoms under the Constitution were grossly violated in the hand of State security officers.
The judge said though many of them did not tender medial evidence of the torture, their evidence was not contradicted by the State.
Among those to be compensated are Prof Edward Oyugi, Mr Silvanese Oketch and Mr James Mwangi, who will receive amounts varying from Sh1 million to Sh2.5 million each.
Another group which includes lawyer Rumba Kinuthia, Dr Odhiambo Olel and the family of Mr Mbewa Ndede have since been paid Sh1.5 million each.
Attorney General Amos Wako has however said he would appeal against the ruling.