Lawyer protests unlawful detention of blast suspects

March 12, 2012 4:47 pm


Police officers at the scene of Saturday's multiple blasts/ FILE
Nairobi, Kenya, Mar 12 – A lawyer acting for a terror suspect and three teenagers detained over Saturday’s grenade attacks in Nairobi is protesting that they are being held without any charges, more than 24 hours after they were arrested.

Chacha Mwita said he had not been allowed access to Sylvester Opiyo aka Musa Osodo and the three minors who include a Form One student, who were picked up as they assisted Opiyo’s sister move into a house in Nairobi’s Umoja estate.

“I have not been allowed access to them… I was not allowed in any of the interrogations,” the lawyer told Capital News on Monday.

“Since the suspects were arrested on Saturday at 11am, 24 hours have lapsed and they ought to have been arraigned in court but this has not happened. It is against the law.”

No official communication was forthcoming from the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU) headquarters where the suspects spent the better part of Monday being interrogated, but a junior officer there disclosed that the suspects were likely to face charges on Tuesday.

“Sylvester informed me (on telephone) that they were being questioned about their whereabouts on the day and hour of the grenade attacks and they gave their story,” the lawyer said.

“All the minors were interrogated and statements recorded. Their finger prints and photographs were taken without the presence of their lawyer or guardian as required by the Children’s Act,” Mwita said.

He said the Form One student’s learning had been interrupted by the incarceration.

“He had a Kiswahili assignment that he was to do but he spent the night at the Kilimani Police station,” the lawyer protested.

Anti-Terrorism Police Unit officers have been interrogating the four suspects on their movements before and after the attacks that killed six people and wounded more than 60 others at the Machakos Bus terminus on Saturday night.

Police believe some or all of them knew something about the four grenade attacks that were hurled at a crowd from a moving vehicle.

On Monday, Nairobi Provincial Police chief Antony Kibuchi told Capital News the four are prime suspects of the attacks but he did not provide more details and APTU officers declined to comment on the matter.

Opiyo had been in the police watch list since December last year when police headquarters released his photograph and claimed he planned a series of attacks in the capital, Nairobi. He surrendered for interrogation and was released immediately after.

Internal Security Minister Professor George Saitoti spoke briefly about the suspects being interrogated over the Saturday blast when he was summoned by a parliamentary committee but he did not provide finer details.

“We have arrested suspects and investigations are going on, we must get to the bottom of this matter,” the minister said.

He spoke of frustrations police have been facing since the new Constitution was enacted, but vowed his officers will continue pursuing criminal elements in the country, particularly Al Shabaab.

He said police investigations since last year on terrorism activities were hampered by provisions in the Constitution which bars them from arresting suspects merely on suspicion.

“The Constitution has made it very difficult for us, you cannot arrest somebody merely on suspicion, but this is not to say we are not following these [terror suspects] people on a 24-hour basis,” said the minister.

He said “police are doing a lot of work, because since last December they have been able to avert a lot of attacks.”

“Other than Saturday attacks, Al Shabaab have been planning a lot of other several attacks in the country [in camera we can tell you], and our officers have been able to thwart them,” he said.
“Saturday’s attack is just one of them which was being planned,” he said.

Following Saturday’s grenade attacks, Saitoti announced Monday that “There will be tight security in the country, at the airports, on our roads and all other areas. We will have additional security all over, this one we will do because we must protect our country.”

On Monday evening, Al Shabaab rebels denied being behind grenade blasts.

“We are not actually involved in such low-scale attacks. Al-Shabaab has nothing to do with the hand grenade attacks that hit Nairobi,” said Sheik Mohamed Ibrahim, a senior Shabaab official.

(Agence France Presse contributed to this report).


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