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Kenyan Activist Remains in Uganda, Partner Released from Detention

  • Michael Onyiego

A Kenyan rights activist providing counsel for suspects of Uganda's July attacks remains in prison following the release of colleague and lawyer Mbugua Mureithi, who has accused Uganda authorities of a "witch hunt."

The Executive Coordinator of the Muslim Human Rights Forum in Kenya, Al-Amin Kimathi, is being held by Ugandan authorities without being charged with a crime.

Kimathi was arrested Thursday, along with Kenyan Lawyer Mbugua Mureithi, on arrival in Kampala where the two were scheduled to attend court hearings for suspects accused of terrorist attacks in the Ugandan capital.

Twin blasts killed 76 people among crowds watching the World Cup Final in July. Somali insurgent group al Shabab has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which it said were in retaliation for Ugandan peacekeeping forces in the Horn of African nation.

Following condemnations from international organizations such as New York-based Human Rights Watch and members of Kenyan civil society, Mureithi was released by Uganda police Saturday and ordered to return to Kenya.

But the Secretary of the Kenya Law Society, Apollo Mboya, was not satisfied with the release. Mboya said Uganda must provide legitimate reasons for Mureithi's ordeal.

"Even though we are happy, we would like to get some explanations for why he was detained, because he has been released without charge, his passport was mutilated for unexplained reasons and he was escorted like a criminal for the duration of the detention," Mboya said. "He was actually escorted by security forces until inside the plane on Saturday morning, to be brought to Kenya. Up to now we have not had any explanation from the Ugandan authorities for this detention."

Shortly after his release, Ugandan Police issued a statement explaining that Mureithi and Kimathi were arrested as part of a raid targeting members of al Shabab in a Kampala hotel. Police said the two were with the unnamed suspects when arrested, but Mureithi denied such a meeting took place and said he and Kimathi were lured there by Uganda Police.

According to Mboya, the two received an anonymous phone call from a man asking them to take a letter from one of the Kenyan suspects being held in Uganda. The two traveled to Kampala's Niagara Hotel where they were met by members of the police Rapid Response Unit and detained.

Mboya told VOA that Kimathi and Mureithi were subjected to psychological abuse including death threats and said Kimathi's current condition is unknown.

The activists have criticized the Kenyan and Uganda governments for arresting 10 Kenyan suspects in the Kampala bombings without due process. The two have compared their transfers, done without warrants or court orders, to kidnapping. The activists had travelled to Uganda to provide the suspects with legal counsel.