, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 23 – The trial of four suspects charged in connection with the September 21, 2013 terror attack at the Westgate mall failed to take off on Tuesday after the prosecution informed the court that they were “on bed rest.”
State Prosecutor Mungai Warui explained that the suspects had been put on extended bed rest by Kamiti prison medical officers following a fight with warders, and were not in a position to appear in court.
“We visited the prison on September 17 and were informed they would be on extended bed rest for eight days,” Warui reported to Principal Magistrate Helena Nderitu.
Mwita Chacha, the defence counsel for the first and fourth accused, challenged the assertion, arguing that their families had seen them in the court’s basement holding cells and that one of his other clients had ridden on the bus to the Milimani Law Courts with them. “The prison authorities are trying to hide them,” he charged.
Nderitu then took a trip to the holding cells to ascertain for herself where the truth lay.
“The magistrate was very disappointed,” Chacha later told reporters outside the holding cells. “They are in the basement but we didn’t see any beds.”
Chacha alleged that the prison authorities had “visited terror,” on the four terror suspects on August 27 without provocation and that the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights was investigating the matter.
“You should see them, they’re all bandaged up and that is why the prison authorities are trying to keep them out of open court,” he said.
But the prison authorities, he acknowledged, had a different version of events.
Warui told Capital FM News that the suspects had refused to wear their prisons uniforms and fought their warders in defiance.
“They even injured a prisons officer,” he said.
Nderitu ordered that the matter come up for mention on October 3.
Mohamed Abdi, Liban Omar, Adan Dheq and Hussein Hassan face charges of offering support to the four gunmen who stormed the Westgate mall a year ago taking 67 lives.
So far 40 witnesses have testified against them with 20 more expected to take the stand.