16 September 2008

Kenya: Terror Suspect Freed As Court Quashes Jail Term

Nairobi — A man linked to the 2002 Kikambala Paradise Hotel bombing that killed 15 people in 2002 was on Tuesday acquitted by the High Court.

Mr Justice Jackton Ojwang freed Mr Omar Said Omar after setting aside his conviction and quashing his eight-year sentence.

He also said that the police violated Mr Omar's rights by detaining him for more than two years before arraigning him in court.

Fifteen people were killed in the attack on the Israeli-owned hotel.

Found guilty

In his appeal, Mr Omar told the High Court that he was arrested on August 1, 2003, but only arraigned in court on October 16, 2005.

He was found guilty by a magistrate's court of possessing a firearm, explosives and ammunition without a certificate. Four other suspects were acquitted for lack of evidence.

Senior principal magistrate Rosemell Mutoka found Mr Omar guilty of possessing five anti-tank weapons, a grenade and ammunition and sentenced him to eight years.

The trial magistrate said that she had considered the circumstances surrounding the accused's arrest and recovery of firearms from his house.

"I must reach the conclusion that he was in possession of the firearms in equal measure as Faisal (a suspect who blew himself up) and a third unknown tenant," she said.

Mr Omar was jailed on April 4 2006, 10 months after the High Court acquitted him and four others on murder charges arising from the bombing.

Mr Omar appealed against the sentence, saying the court had relied on contradictory evidence to reach a conviction.

He further said that the court relied on "very poor evidence on identification" which he termed as flawed.

Mr Justice Ojwang heard that the prosecution had also not provided a reason for the two-year delay in charging him.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Ojwang disagreed with Mrs Mutoka's opinion that Mr Omar was guilty.

No explanation

He also noted that no explanation was given by the prosecution for the two-year delay in arraigning the appellant in court, which was a violation of his constitutional rights.

Meanwhile, a Moyale-based businessman was on Tuesday charged with making a false statement that the man wanted in connection with the 1998 bombing of the American embassy in Nairobi was living in Loresho, Nairobi.

Mr Shariff Mohammed Abdulkadir denied before Nairobi chief magistrate Gilbert Mutembei that he gave false information to deputy Nairobi police commander Julius Ndegwa that Fazul Abdullah Mohammed was living in the upmarket estate.

Cause the arrest

Mr Abdulkadir was accused of giving the false information in an attempt to cause the arrest and prosecution of Mr Sharrif Awo Mohammed Noor.

The 54-year-old man applied for cash bail, saying he was under constant medication.

The prosecution did not oppose the application.

The magistrate allowed the plea and directed that he deposits a cash bail of Sh50,000 until October 5, 2008, when he will be tried.

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