NAIROBI, October 4 – The government will still keep a ‘watchful eye’ over the eight Kenyans who are finally back home after languishing in an Ethiopian jail since late 2006.
The group of ‘suspected terrorists’, said Government Spokesman Dr Alfred Mutua, touched down in Voi late Friday night and were escorted to their respective homes.
Mr Mutua told Capital News Saturday that the government believed the group had been fighting with Somali Separatists.
“After we sent a group of security and immigration officers to Ethiopia they were able to ascertain that they were Kenyans, even though they had initially refused they were Kenyans at that time, when they were crossing the border after fighting for a terrorist organisation in Somalia,” he claimed.
He denied claims by a human rights organisation that it is the Kenyan government that took them to Ethiopia. Mr Mutua said it was the doing of Somali authorities, since the suspects had denied being Kenyan citizens.
The spokesman further noted that there were about 30 Kenyan nationals arrested at the time, but the rest were not sent to Somalia.
Asked why the suspects were released without charge, Mr Mutua said Kenya does not have a legislation that allows people to be charged with terrorist activities.
“Kenya hasn’t passed the controversial Anti-Terrorism Bill of 2003 and as a result anyone suspected of terrorist activities can only be charged with conspiracy to murder or destruction of property,” he explained.
The eight freed suspects are Swaleh Ali Tunzi, Bashir Hussein Mohammed Sader aka Chirag, Kassim Musa Mwarusi, Ali Musa Mwarusi, Abdalla Khalifan Tondwe, Hassan Shaban Mwasume, Said Hamisi Mohamed Aka Star, and Salim Awadh Salim.
Muslim Human Rights Foundation (MHF) chairman Al Amin Kimathi told Capital News that the eight were taken to a hospital in Mombasa on Saturday for an examination to ascertain their health statuses.
Mr Kimathi confirmed that they had already met with their family members and were now in the hands of doctors who were examining them before they go back to their homes.
Rights organisations had claimed that the eight were part of a secret rendition programme carried out illegally by Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and the United States.
Mr Mutua however denied the allegations and said that Kenya remained committed to fighting terrorism and had never sent away any terrorists.
“People saying that Kenya is sending away terrorists, their intentions are very questionable. The fight against terrorism cuts across religions, across all cultures and we should be very careful we don’t get sucked into defending terrorists, some whom have killed people in this country,” he stressed.
On Wednesday Human Rights Watch demanded that the Kenyan government take action and bring back the suspects, who had been held without charge for almost two years, and were languishing in an Ethiopian jail completely cut off from their loved ones.
"The dozens of people caught up in the secret Horn of Africa renditions in 2007 have suffered in silence too long," said Jennifer Daskal, senior counterterrorism counsel at HRW and author of the report “Why Am I Still Here?”.
The rights panel said that while most suspects were sent home when the interrogations ended, some remain abandoned in Ethiopia.
Seven of 19 Kenyans known to have been detained in 2006 are still missing. Two were released in Nairobi in 2007 and one fled custody in Ethiopia in February.