Following the successful arrest and prosecution of two Iranians, Ahmad Abolfathi Mohammed and Sayed Mansour Mousa in June 2012 for planning to commit devastating acts of terror and other heinous criminal acts in Kenya, operatives of the Iranian government went full throttle in mobilizing resources and covertly using agents in their embassy in Nairobi to defeat the course of justice regarding the two convicts.
On their own submission, the two confirmed being members of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force (IRGC), a unit known for its covert operations both within and outside Iran. The Quds Force is actively involved in recruiting and training terrorists as well channelling funds to support terrorist groups globally. In 2011, the group gained notoriety for attempted assassination of Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US.
Ahmad Abolfathi Mohammed and Sayed Mansour Mousa were arrested in Kenya on 19th June 2012 in possession of 15 kilograms of RDX explosive that they allegedly smuggled into the country to commit acts of terror. RDX was used in Mumbai train bombing in 2006 as well as in the 2010 Moscow Metro attacks. Their primary targets according to reports from the ATPU were the Western and Israeli Interests in the country. In 1998 and 2002, terrorists hit American Embassy and Israeli hotel in Mombasa respectively, heralding a new phase in global terrorism, especially in East Africa, a region that is home to many investments by the Western countries.
Ahmad Abolfathi Mohammed and Sayed Mansour Mousa were charged for plotting attacks in Kenya and being in possession of explosives. They were incarcerated for life after the Courts found them guilty in 2013 on the basis of the strong evidence that had been adduced by the prosecution. Information from those privy to the ongoing, indicated that following the conviction, the Iranian government hatched a two-step approach to secure the release of the two terrorists. The first plan was to use a hit squad to conduct a prison break and rescue the convicts. Operatives within the Iranian embassy, the IRGC undercover operatives in the Eastern Africa region and their Kenyan contacts worked tirelessly in obscurity to ensure the escape plan succeeded. However, the plan hit a snag, thanks to the resoluteness of the Prison staff who had been approached to help execute it. Instead, the prison was fortified with extra security measures to quash any attempted escape by the Iranians.
Having failed on this plan, the Iranian operatives opted for the second plan of infiltrating high ranking government officials whom they believed would have influence with the courts particularly the court of appeal. They offered one of the senior government officials lucrative concessions for importation of oil from Iran while assuring others of mouth-watering business deals. Acting upon these arrangements, the senior government officials identified suitable contacts within the courts with whom they advised the Iranian convicts to launch an appeal against their convictions. Subsequently, the two launched an appeal before the Court of Appeal upon which all their prayers were granted. By late January 2018, it was getting apparent that charges against the two would be dropped as their sentence had already been reduced from life to 15 years. Eventually, in early February 2018, the two were acquitted by the Court of Appeal, with orders for their immediate release and repatriation to their country of origin.
However, the office of the DPP, moved quickly to appeal the release of the two Iranians at the Supreme Court – the ODPP filed an appeal notice at the Court of appeal on 19th February 2018 vide Criminal application no. 2/ 2018. This resulted in a stay order by the court until the new appeal was heard and determined by the Supreme Court.
This case of terror convicts trying and sometimes successfully so, to defeat justice through the courts and by other means, is by no means an isolated one. The trend of terror convicts taking advantage of loopholes within the Kenyan criminal justice system to get a lifeline, has gained traction since last year. The ‘Java Four’ who were behind the detonation of an explosive at JAVA Restaurant at JKIA were released despite the evidence that the four were planning a terror attack at JKIA. Similarly, Elgiva Bwire, who had been convicted on his own plea of guilty for being a member of Al Shabaab terror group and having coordinated various terror attacks in Nairobi has had his life sentence quashed and some charges dropped by the Court of Appeal. Bwire will now serve a paltry fifteen year jail term.
A Similar trend was witnessed in January 2017, when a magistrate’s court in Mombasa released four women charged for being members of a terrorist group after most of the charges against them were dropped by the court citing insufficient evidence.
The big question is, why do many terrorism suspects get acquitted despite the high risk they pose to the country? Even more worrying is why already convicted terror suspects would appeal and get released. Is it a case of external interference as with the Iranians or a waning criminal and judicial system that is unable to ensure justice for ordinary Kenyans who are the victims of terrorism besides failing to secure the country’s interests? Even in cases of external interference, it is self-seeking individual Kenyans, working in different sectors of government as well as the private sector, who create loopholes for exploitation by criminal elements. It is high time Kenyans got to understand that even as security agencies fight day and night to ensure their security, these efforts may not bear fruit with the kind of betrayal by unscrupulous individuals hell-bent on defeating the course of justice for their own selfish gains.
Additionally, Kenyans must guard against being exploited by foreign state like Iran whose only interest is to turn Kenya into a theatre for their proxy wars with their imaginary enemies in total disregard of its negative repercussions to Kenyans.