26 February 2012

Kenya: Citizens Arrested in the Comoros 'Still in Detention'

Ten Kenyans, six of them policemen, seized in the Comoros while escorting a ship are still in custody.

The group, which was arrested last Saturday, said on Sunday they had been arraigned in court on Friday.

The officers, who are facing charges of being in the country illegally, said the hearing was scheduled for on Tuesday.

According to one of the officers who called the Nation on Sunday, the Kenyans did not know when they would be released.

"We could have died since Comoros military thought we were pirates while we were searching for Anjouan port.

"We surrendered and we were arrested. Now we are in the Comoros authorities' custody," said the officer.

Reports from Comoros say that after the officers were taken back to the vessel, which is guarded by navy officers.

Coast provincial police boss Aggrey Adoli confirmed that the officers were attached to his office.

Speaking to the Nation from Comoros, one of the officers said that the authorities had confiscated their firearms, uniforms and documents.

He said they were arrested after the captain of the vessel they were escorting failed to locate the port.

Mr Adoli, however, maintained that the officers had been released.

He said he received a message from the Comoros officials confirming the release of the six officers and four civilians who were aboard mv Squirrel and they were expected in Mombasa in a couple of days.

"The group was held because of customs issues but we have moved in to ensure they are released," he said.

He went on: "The ship's crew are safe and we would like to confirm that rumours that the officers are being held by pirates are baseless."

The ship, which was transporting oil exploration equipment, was seized by the Comorian authorities near Grande Comore after it ran out of fuel.

But even as Mr Adoli maintained that all was well, Seafarers Assistance Programme coordinator Andrew Mwangura questioned the circumstances under which Kenyan police officers were allowed to escort a ship past the Kenyan Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Mr Mwangura said it was unusual for Kenyan police to move past the EEZ as there were private security firms that provided such services.

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