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October 22, 2018

Marsabit cleric to be held 30 days for probe into al Shabaab links

Protesters during a demonstration against police officers following the arrest of Marsabit Muslim cleric Guyo Gorsa, January 13, 2018. /Courtesy
Protesters during a demonstration against police officers following the arrest of Marsabit Muslim cleric Guyo Gorsa, January 13, 2018. /Courtesy

A Muslim cleric in Marsabit will remain in police custody for 30 days for more investigations into his alleged links to al Shabaab terrorists.

Milimani senior principal magistrate Martha Mutuku ordered Sheikh Guyo Gorsa detained in any police station in Nairobi.

In her ruling on Tuesday, Mutuku noted the prosecution's reasons were compelling. She noted allegations against the suspect were serious so the Anti-Terror Police Unit requires more time to investigate and make a decision on charging him.

The magistrate noted it would be improper to release Gorsa on bail as he in an influential person in the county; people were killed and youths damaged property worth millions of shillings during his arrest.

The Sheikh was arrested in Marsabit town on Saturday and flown to Nairobi for a probe on terror-related offences.

On that day, riots by about 400 youths were reported in Marsabit town. The protesters attacked police officers and tried to invade Marsabit police station but were repulsed.

More on this: Calm returns after deadly Marsabit demo

The charges the cleric faces include conspiracy to commit terrorism, radicalisation, recruiting members to a terrorist group and membership to a terrorist group, which the prosecution noted attract jail terms of at most 30 years each.

On Monday, state counsel Duncan Ondimu informed the court that the suspect was arrested on suspicion of recruiting youths to join al Shabaab.

“ATPU believes the suspect has other associates who are yet to be apprehended. Their arrest is being vigorously pursued by security agencies, both within and outside the country,” said Ondimu.

He said that his mobile phone, a flash disk and a 2GB MicroSD card were seized from him and will be subjected to forensic examination before a report is made.

The court also heard that the suspect may have been in constant communication with a number of well-known terrorists based in Somalia, and that two of his recruits are facing terror-related charges at the Milimani chief magistrate's court.

It was also said that the cleric and his associates had been planning attacks within the country, making a thorough grilling necessary for the arrest of his co-conspirators.

Ondimu said: "...the activities of the suspect, who is an influential person in Marsabit, and his associates pose a great risk to national security and the security of the entire peace-loving human race in the world ... his actions must be fully investigated."

Defence lawyers led by Chacha Mwita had informed the court that the suspect was a religious leader, counselor and a man entrusted with teaching children the word of God.

“He is loved by most residents of Marsabit for the guidance and order he has brought among youths in the area. He is a stranger to the allegations of terrorism involvement,” the lawyer said.

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