NAIROBI - A court in Kenya says four men must stand trial for their alleged role in the 2015 terrorist attack on Garissa University College in the northeastern part of the country. The suspects are accused of belonging to a terror group and committing a terror act.
The suspects were in court Tuesday as Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi read the ruling.
“I have considered the evidence by the prosecution and submission by learned council, and my findings are that the prosecution has made it out of the prima facie case to warrant the court to call upon the first, the second, the third and the fifth accused persons to offer a defense on respective counts they are charged with, other than the fifth accused person on the 156th count,” he said.
The suspects, Charles Mberesero, Mohamed Ali Abdikar, Hassan Aden Hassan and Sahal Diriye are charged in connection with the April 2, 2015, dawn attack in which more than 150 people, most of them students, were killed. The court acquitted Osman Dagane, a university guard, saying there was no evidence linking him to the attack.
Witnesses say the assailants followed the students to the classes and dormitories before killing them. The armed men were killed after security forces retook the institution. The four suspects were arrested a few weeks later.
Twenty-five year-old university graduate Steve Mwangi survived the assault, which Somali militant group al-Shabab claimed responsibility. Mwangi said he was pleased with the court decision.
“I am feeling happy. I am feeling good. At least some people will be punished for the crimes that were committed. Before, we have not seen anybody being punished. Now, at least I feel good some people will be punished,” he said.
Mwangi lost his sister, who was also a student. Mwangi says every year, he dreads the anniversary of the attack.
“When [the] 2nd [of] April comes, you just wish it would be over soon. We stop all these reminders we see on TV and social media. I just pray that when a day like that comes, I just pray it ends soon,” he said.
Prosecutors so far have testimony from 22 witnesses.
The defendants are expected in court again on February 13.
The town of Garissa is about 200 kilometers from the border with Somalia and has, in recent years, been the site of sporadic gun and grenade attacks blamed on al-Shabab. The group has targeted Kenya in retribution for Kenya sending troops to Somalia.