8 Kenyans freed but Al Amin to face trial

December 1, 2010 12:00 am

, KAMPALA, Dec 1 – Uganda on Tuesday dropped charges against eight Kenyans who had been accused of involvement in the July suicide bombings in Kampala.

State attorney Lino Anguzu said prosecutors will try nine other Kenyans, including human rights activist Al-Amin Kimathi, with offences related to the deaths of at least 76 people on the night of the World Cup final. The court had released a total of 17 people and ordered for the trial of 17 others.

Three others were immediately re-arrested and were to face charges other than murder and terrorism, Richard Butera, the director of public prosecutions, told AFP without specifying the new charges.

A total of 36 people faced charges of terrorism, murder and attempted murder over the bombings, but two, including a Tanzanian, are not in detention in Uganda.

Prior to the hearing, defence lawyers had expected Kimathi, who founded the Muslim Human Rights forum, to be released.

"None of this was a surprise except for Al-Amin Kimathi," Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi told AFP. "We definitely expected charges against him to be dropped."

Maria Burnett, Uganda researcher for the New York-based Human Rights Watch, voiced concern that Kimathi was being prosecuted for his previous advocacy on behalf of Muslims caught up in regional terrorism investigations.

"The trial should happen quickly," she told AFP. "We are concerned that the prosecution of Al-Amin Kimathi is an attempt to silence his criticism of counter-terrorism in East Africa."

Kimathi was arrested during a September visit to Uganda where he intended to observe the cases of other Kenyans charged in the case.

Among those headed for trial are four Ugandans who in August told journalists they helped plan and execute the twin suicide blasts at two separate sites that targeted fans watching the football match.

Rwakafuuzi said the high court trial would likely not start before March.

Those exonerated, who spent more than three months in custody, embraced each other and several cried in the packed court room after the hearing ended.

They could be free to return home later on Tuesday, Anguzu told AFP.


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