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Kenyan Court Drops Murder Charges Against 5 Terror Suspects - 2003-11-28

A court in Kenya has dropped murder charges against five of the nine suspects on trial for their alleged role in the suicide bombing of a hotel near the coastal town of Mombasa one year ago. Three of the five were charged with conspiracy instead, and two were released.

State prosecutor John Gacivih told the court there was not enough evidence to charge Faiz Abdalla Shariff and Mohamed Ali Hassan with murder, so the charges were withdrawn and the two were set free.

The prosecutor said he also did not have sufficient evidence to charge three of the nine suspects - Mohamed Kubwa, Said Saggar Ahmed, and Salmin Mohammed Khamis - with murder.

But he said the three suspects would be charged in a lower court with conspiracy to commit a felony. Their trial date has been set for January 7 and 8.

The four remaining suspects: Omar Said Omar, Mohamed Kubwa, Aboud Rogo Mohammed, and Mohamed Ali Saleh Nabhan, pleaded not guilty to 15 counts of murder. Their trial is set to resume January 26 and last one month.

The court ruling came one year to the day after suicide bombers attacked the Israeli-owned Paradise Hotel on Kenya's east coast, killing 12 Kenyans and three Israelis.

Mr. Gacivih told VOA he has, "beautiful evidence" against the four murder suspects. He says he has about 100 witnesses who can testify against them.

But a lawyer for the suspects, Maobe Mao, questions Mr. Gacivih's claim, and says the state should not have charged the suspects in the first place.

"They have had this evidence all along," he said. "They knew that the evidence they had could not sustain a charge of murder."

Mr. Mao says he thinks the state was, "out to persecute as opposed to prosecute," and says he is doubtful about the case against the four.

"On the whole, there's nothing worth bringing before the court, but we will wait for the evidence in court," said Maobe Mao.

The Kenyan government arrested four suspects last June and charged them with 15 counts of murder. Five more suspects were subsequently added to the group.