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Kenya to Announce Status of Mombasa Bombing Suspects - 2003-08-05


Kenya's attorney general said he will announce Thursday whether the five suspects charged with murder in connection with last November's attack on a hotel near Mombasa will be put on trial or the charges will be dropped for lack of evidence.

Nairobi's Chief Magistrate, Aggrey Muchelule, told the packed courtroom that, because of a new law enacted last month, his court no longer has jurisdiction over the five murder suspects.

The law now requires that murder cases be conducted in the High Court. The five men - Said Saggar Ahmed, Aboud Rogo Mohammed, Salmin Mohammed Khamis, Kubwa Mohamed and his son, Mohamed Kubwa - are charged with 15 counts of murder each for their alleged role in the November 28 suicide bombing of a hotel near the coastal city of Mombasa. Eighteen people were reported killed in the attack.

Lawyers for the accused argued that the rights of the five are being violated and they should be set free pending the prosecution's decision to try them. That decision, according to the prosecution, will be made by Thursday.

The case has already been postponed several times, leading legal observers to speculate that the prosecution does not have enough evidence to link the five to the terrorist attack.

But the prosecutor, John Gacivih, dismisses such speculations. Speaking to VOA, he said, "Inevitably [there is evidence], otherwise we wouldn't have taken them to court in the first place."

Still, an official with the Supreme Council of Kenyan Muslims, Nazlan Omar Rajpul, accused the government of bowing to pressure from the United States to crack down on terrorism, and questions the weight of evidence against the five suspects.

"The government and the judiciary owes it to the people of Kenya to put forth any evidence that they may have on this matter. If there's any evidence, give it to us and we'll support the government. So far, we believe that we are being witch-hunted," Mr. Rajpul said.

Ms. Rajpul and other members of Kenya's Muslim community say the arrest of the five men discriminates against Muslims in Kenya.