Kenya drops charges against pirate whisperer

May 18, 2009 12:00 am

, MOMBASA, Kenya, May 18 – The State has dropped charges against the controversial maritime official who was arrested and detained in Mombasa for bhang possession in October last year.

Andrew Mwangura of the Seafarers Association, who has earned himself international celebrity status for giving updates on piracy activities in the Indian Ocean, ran into trouble when he issued regular updates about the MV Faina that was seized while carrying military arsenal.

A statement signed by assistant deputy public prosecutor Jacob Ondari said that the state had notified the court of its intention not to proceed against Mr Mwangura, who was arrested on charges of ‘making alarming statements to foreign media touching on the security of the country’.

Mr Mwangura, who heads an NGO providing assistance to seafarers had been among the first to suggest that MV Faina’s cargo was not intended for Kenya, as was initially announced, but to the semi-autonomous government of South Sudan.

The Kenyan government, however, insisted that the military hardware consisting of 33 battle tanks and other weaponry belongs to its own armed forces, despite a number of reports by intelligence and diplomatic sources to the contrary.

On Monday, Mr Mwangura confirmed that the charges against him had been dropped but complained he had been unlawfully detained last year and his lawyer Francis Kadima said he would consider suing the state.

"I have always received phone-calls from Kenyan and Somali officials trying to muzzle me in my efforts to secure the lives and wellbeing of seafarers taken hostage in Somalia," he said.

Since 2007, Somali pirates have multiplied their attacks on merchant ships and other vessels plying the busy trade routes of the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean, hijacking dozens of them to demand ransoms.

Through his activity with the East Africa Seafarers Assistance Programme, Mr Mwangura is on the front line of a crisis which has taken global proportions, threatening vital shipping lanes and drawing in the world’s naval powers.

The man nicknamed "the pirate whisperer" could soon be the inspiration for a Hollywood film.

Filmmaker Andras Hamori and actor Samuel L Jackson have secured the rights to his story.


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