Wednesday, October 09, 2013
Kenyan security forces have made dozens of arrests and intensified
their search for more suspects who they believe were behind the Westgate
mall terror attack on September 21. This week the government offered a
bounty of up to $6,000 for information leading to the arrest of two men
alleged to own a vehicle used during the attack. Legal experts fear no
suspect will be convicted.
In a brief statement to the media Monday, Boniface Mwaniki, head of
the police Anti-Terrorism Unit, said his unit will offer a reward to
anyone who comes forward and gives information on the owner of a car
which was used to transport terrorists, weapons and explosives to the
Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
During the attack at the mall, more than 60 civilians were killed, along with six soldiers and at least five gunmen.
Legal experts in Kenya expect the courts to be busy in the coming
days and even months, but doubt that any suspect will be prosecuted and
Donald Rabala, an advocate at the High Court of Kenya, told VOA it
will be hard for police to link suspects to the Westgate attack, since
none of those arrested were actually apprehended at the mall.
"If you didn't find these people at the scene, how then do you link
them to this activity that happened at the Westgate?" he asked. "Then
that is where you come up with a trail of evidence in terms of mobile
communication, e-mail communication, you can even trail money movement
from one place to another. Our police forces are not able to get this
kind of links more often than not, so you end up with a weak case and a
magistrate has no choice but to release these people.
Lawyers acknowledge that getting evidence needed to prove terrorism links and prosecuting it is difficult.
Dozens of arrests made in the last few weeks include people from Western countries.
Multiple sources in the security force said the investigators pick
names from the immigration department and check the date that a suspect
arrived. In some cases, police look for individuals whose entry visas
have expired, but most of these people have crossed to Somalia. If these
individuals come back, security forces are left to deal with an
immigration case instead of a terror-related case.
However, Rabala said police are partly to
blame for not giving enough information to prove the suspect they are
sending to court may be a terrorist.
"The first person to blame is the police," he said. "Take, for
example, myself. If am sitting there and am looking at a case and
someone presents me a suspect, you tell me this is a terrorist and you
don't give me evidence linking him to the activity that is complained
of. Obviously the constitution and the laws of the country enjoin me to
release the person because there is no evidence that connects him to the
Neither Police Inspector General David Kimaiyo nor other representatives of the police returned calls for comment.
Al Amin Kimathi, the head of the Muslim Human Rights Forum, said
investigating terror cases is a difficult task but security forces need
to be patient and very careful.
"They are frustrated at times with the law and the legal procedures
at times, there is no two ways about this," he admitted. " Even where
anti-terrorism has predated, counter-terrorism authorities,
anti-terrorism authorities mark their patience to ensure that innocent
persons are not brought to the net and are not victimized."
So far only two convicted terrorists: Bwire Oliacha and Abdulmajid
Yasin Mohamed - are serving jail terms in Kenya in connection to terror
attacks since Kenyan troops crossed to Somalia to fight al-Shabab.
High Court advocate Donald Rabala said with more cases flopping due
to lack of proper investigations and evidence, magistrates - instead of
releasing suspects - should press the police to bring more evidence to
prosecute the suspects.