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Westgate terror attackers sentencing postponed as court orders probe into abduction of acquitted suspect

Thursday October 22, 2020

Hussein Hassan Mustafah, left, Liban Abdullah Omar, center, and Mohamed Ahmed Abdi, right, who are charged with aiding the gunmen involved in the Westgate Mall attack in Sept. 2013, appear during their trial at Milimani court in the capital Nairobi, Kenya Monday, Oct. 5, 2020.

Nairobi (HOL) - A Nairobi court has pushed back the sentencing date for two people who were found guilty for their role in the deadly attack on an upscale shopping mall in Kenya's capital in 2013 that killed 67 people.

The men — Mohamed Ahmed Abdi and Hussein Hassan Mustafah — were found guilty on Oct 7 for conspiracy to commit terrorism and to aid a terrorist organization. A third suspect, Liban Abdullah Omar, was acquitted of all charges but was abducted by armed men when he was stopped in his taxi the following day.

The sentencing for Ahmed Abdi and Hassan Mustafa was initially scheduled for Thursday, but the prosecution had advised the court that they have yet to complete a probation report. Peter Macharia said that the prosecution must still interview victims to record their impact statements.

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"It's the probation report that will guide the court to determine the nature of sentence to be imposed upon the two accused persons," lead prosecutor, Edwin Okello, told the court.

A new sentencing date has been scheduled for Oct 30.

The defence did not oppose the postponement.

Meanwhile, a Nairobi court ordered the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) to launch a probe into the alleged abduction of Liban Abdillahi Omar, the suspect. He was snatched off the street following his acquittal on terror charges for lack of evidence.

Omar, whose brother was said to be one of the Al-Shabaab fighters killed in the terror attack, had just left Nairobi's anti-terror police offices following his release from Kamiti Maximum Prison. Minutes later, his family says the taxi he was travelling in with relatives was accosted by a black Subaru carrying gunmen wearing black balaclavas.

Omar's lawyer, Mbugua Mureithi, said that Omar's abductors identified themselves as state security agents and whisked away his client in broad daylight without providing an arrest warrant or proper identifcaton. He added that his family does not know where he is being held or if he is even alive.

"They are now waiting for Allah to intervene and bring to service their abducted kin. They have also not heard anything from the police, whom they are in constant touch with," Mr Mureithi told the Nation.

Westgate Mall terror attack suspect Liban Abdullah Omar leaves the Milimani Law Courts in Nairobi on October 7, 2020 following his acquittal. AFP

Mureithi said that four other clients that he represented in a separate terror case two years ago met a similar fate.

Although the police have yet to comment publicly, the circumstances surrounding Liban's disappearance bear striking similarities to other Kenyan terror suspects who have been disappeared after being acquitted of similar charges.

Despite his disappearance, Noordin Haji, the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) has announced that his office intends to appeal Omar's acquittal.

Numerous human rights organizations have accused Kenya's Anti-Terror police over the past half-decade of carrying out extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and other abuses.


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