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Kenya governor tried over Lamu massacres

Local governor in court on allegations of having links to a spate of killings in June, which were claimed by al-Shabab.

Last updated: 16 Jul 2014 14:15
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Issa Timamy denies any involvement in the killings, for which al-Shabab has claimed responsibility [Reuters]

The governor of Kenya's coastal region of Lamu has appeared in court on allegations of links to a spate of massacres, with the prosecution requesting more time to complete investigations.

Governor Issa Timamy of Lamu county was arrested in connection with last month's killings in the town of Mpeketoni and nearby villages, which were claimed by the Somali armed group al-Shabab, but blamed by the government on local political networks.

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta absolved al-Shabab from the attacks and said that investigations showed it was the work of political groups.

Timamy, who has fiercely denied any connection to the massacre of more than 60 people, is currently on bail of $57,000 - after the state failed in a bid to hold him for 14 days without charge.

In Wednesday's hearing in the port city of Mombasa, senior prosecution counsel Alexander Muteti told Justice Martin Muya that the authorities needed two months to complete the probe.

"The displacement of potential witnesses has made it rather difficult for the investigations. In two months' time, we shall be through and return to court," he said.

Defence counsel Ahmednasir Abdullahi, however, said the prosecution had no evidence and demanded the case be dropped.

"Two months is a tool to intimidate Governor Timamy," he told the court.

The judge is scheduled to rule on Thursday on whether to grant the state's application to continue with the investigations.

Political rivalry

The accusations have stoked already tense political rivalry between the ruling and opposition parties, with Timamy a member of the opposition United Democratic Forum (UDF) party.

Police have also arrested alleged separatists from the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC), a group that campaigns for independence for the coastal region.

Survivors of the attack in Mpeketoni reported gunmen executing non-Muslims, speaking Somali and carrying al-Shabab flags, and saying their actions were revenge for Kenya's military presence in Somalia as part of the African Union force intervention against the armed group.

The attackers appeared to target Mpeketoni because the town is a mainly Christian settlement in the Muslim-majority coastal region, having been settled decades ago by the Kikuyu people, the same tribe as Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.

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