Kenya Will Try Again to Pass Anti-Terror Law

By Stephen Mbogo | July 7, 2008 | 8:16pm EDT

Nairobi, Kenya ( - Kenya's government is preparing to re-introduce anti-terrorism legislation, which it withdrew last year after complaints that it unfairly targeted Muslims.

President Mwai Kibaki confirmed that the Kenya Suppression of Terrorism Bill would be tabled soon in parliament.

The move comes after the United States and Israeli governments voiced concern that the East African nation was not doing enough to fight terrorism.

Last month, a Kenyan court released seven suspects on trial for the Nov. 2002 bombing of an Israeli-owned hotel in the coastal city of Mombasa. The same terrorists were also accused of trying to shoot down an Israeli passenger plane, using shoulder-launched missiles.

U.S Ambassador to Kenya William Bellamy last week said that Kenya's campaign against terrorism was "still wanting," adding that the U.S. expected the authorities to display "vigor and commitment" in fighting against terror.

"Kenya's investigations and prosecutions of terrorist crimes remain far below the standard required to deal with the threats at hand," Bellamy said.

When it acquitted the terrorism suspects, the Nairobi court said the prosecution had failed to prove the case against them.

Israeli Embassy officials here said they were "shocked" by the outcome of the trial.

"It is disappointing that none of those who committed the atrocity had been held accountable for their actions," a diplomat said in a statement.

Since the first major terrorist attack on the Kenyan soil - the deadly Aug. 1998 bombing by Islamists of the American Embassy in Nairobi, nobody has been jailed here for terror-related crimes.

That is attributed in part to the absence of anti-terrorism legislation. The legal system depends on conventional criminal law to prosecute terrorist suspects. Attempted prosecutions have been successful, including those against three men accused of plotting the 1998 bombing.

The U.S. and other Western nations have been pressuring Kenya to enact anti-terror laws like those now in place in neighboring Tanzania - where terrorists also bombed the U.S. Embassy on the same day in Aug. 1998 - and in Uganda.

Kenya moved to enact a bill two years ago, but it stalled as a result of pressure from human rights groups and Muslim leaders.

The bill allowed police to arrest people and search property without authority from the courts, and to detain suspected terrorists for 36 hours without allowing them contact with the outside world.

Amnesty International said at the time the law would suspend safeguards that protect the rights of those detained or prosecuted under it, while Muslim groups said its provisions were "anti-Muslim."

The bill that will be re-introduced for debate in parliament is expected to deal with concerns raised by various interest groups, an official at the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs said.

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