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Kenya Seeks Return of Citizen from Guantanamo

  • Michael Onyiego

Kenya has requested the United States transfer one of its citizens being held at the Guantanamo Bay prison back into Kenyan custody.

In a letter shown to the media Wednesday, Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetang'ula informed Mohamed Abdulmalik's family of the Kenyan government's effort, although Wetang'ula did not say what was being done.

Abdulmalik has been accused by the U.S. and Kenyan governments of supporting the 2002 bombing that killed 13 people at an Israeli-owned hotel on the Kenyan coast. He also allegedly took part in a failed attempt to shoot down an Israeli airplane departing from Mombasa, a city on the Kenyan coast.

The United States believes Abdulmalik has links to al-Qaida. He has been held at the U.S. Military facility in Cuba since 2007

A London-based human-rights organization that advocates for Guantanamo detainees, Reprieve, says the 37-year-old Abdulmalik was beaten by Kenyan police and illegally transferred to U.S. facilities in Djibouti and Afghanistan before being brought to Guantanamo.

A representative from the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi declined to comment on the Kenyan request.

The United States has faced severe international criticism for the detention of terror suspects at Guantanamo since 2002. U.S. President Barack Obama has declared his intention to close the facility, saying its existence damages U.S. national security interests and helps al-Qaida recruit members.

Abdulmalik is the only Kenyan to have been held at the facility. U.S. officials have called him a dangerous, but relatively low-level part of al-Qaida's east-African network

Reprieve investigator Clara Gutteridge says Abdulmalik, who has not been charged with a crime, deserves his day in court.

"It seems that all of the evidence that the United States has against him has either been coerced out of him or others out of torture," she said. "If that is the case then what he really needs is his own day in court, which I hope would happen in Kenya,." she added.

If returned, Abdulmalik may spend time in court for more than one case. In 2009, his family filed suit against the Kenyan government, alleging his detention violates Kenya's constitution. His family is seeking $30 million in damages.

Kenya is seen as a vital ally in the struggle against terrorism. It has suffered attacks from al-Qaida in the past, including the bombing of the United States Embassy in 1998 that killed more than 250 people. Its proximity to Somalia provides a constant threat.

Kenya has received millions of dollars worth of anti-terror training and support from the U.S. during the past decade.