Evidence in trial of Jermaine Grant, from east London, has been sent to Britain for analysis, delaying the case until May
Briton Jermaine Grant, who has been charged with possessing explosives and planning an attack in Kenya, will have to wait until 9 May for his trial because evidence seized during his arrest has been sent to Britain for analysis, a Kenyan court heard on Monday.
Grant, 29, from Newham, east London, appeared in a small, packed and sweltering courtroom in Mombasa, alongside two men and a woman, identified as Grant’s wife, who were arrested with him in the coastal city in December.
Grant, Warda Breik Islam, whom he married just days before his arrest, Fouad Abubakar Manswab and Frank Ngala have all been charged with possessing explosives and planning to cause loss of life in Kenya, which has been on high alert since its troops entered neighbouring Somalia last October to pursue the Islamist rebels of al-Shabaab.
They all pleaded not guilty in a first court appearance on 13 January.
Grant, wearing a red-and-black T-shirt and jeans, was led into the dock of court number three on Monday,
and when joined by the other three accused , he chatted with Abubakar Manswab.
Ngala, an older man in a blue T-shirt, did not have a lawyer present, a fact that contributed to the judge’s decision to adjourn. Breik Islam, the fourth accused, stood silently in the dock, adjusting her white-and-purple headscarf.
The drawn-out court case has highlighted fears that Somalia may become a new training ground for terrorists. Al-Shabaab, which is fighting the weak, UN-backed transitional government, controls large parts of the south of the country and formally merged with al-Qaida this month, a move some analysts say is meant to strengthen both faltering groups.
Britain considers Somalia a direct threat to its own security, partly because of the presence of British nationals among the militants. Grant’s appearance in court comes three days before Britain hosts a conference in London to formulate a fresh international approach to the crisis in Somalia, a fractured nation that has had no functioning government for over two decades.
After his arrest, Kenyan police said Grant had been questioned about possible links to al-Shabaab, which has already carried out deadly attacks in Kenya and Uganda.
“What I understand from the police is that [the exhibits] were sent to Britain for forensic examination,” prosecutor Jacob Ondari told the Guardian after Monday’s court appearance. He said he did not know which institution in Britain was carrying out the tests.
A court charge sheet listed the items seized as acetone, hydrogen peroxide, ammonium nitrate, sulphur, lead nitrate, batteries and wire. It also said Grant used the aliases Ali Muhammad Ali and Peter Joseph.
Ondari also said he wanted to request police protection for two Kenyan witnesses, who said they had been threatened, before the trial proceeds.
Grant’s lawyer Chacha Mwita said he was “extremely disappointed” by the decision to adjourn until 9 and 10 May, and alleged the prosecution was using delaying tactics to tie Grant, who is already serving a concurrent two-year sentence for illegally entering Kenya, to other incidents not before the Mombasa court.
“[The adjournment] caught us by surprise,” Mwita said. “They are trying to see if they can link him to other offences.”
He said there was no need for the evidence to be sent to Britain as it had already been analysed by Kenyan experts.
“I believe we have qualified analysts … we don’t need to rely on our former colonial masters,” he told the court.
Grant has been charged separately in Nairobi with multiple counts of robbery with violence and unlawfully escaping custody after an incident near the border between Kenya and Somalia in 2008.
The prosecution in that case says Grant was detained by Kenyan police but escaped when suspected al-Shabaab rebels attacked the Dadajabula police station and stole weapons. He has been charged with multiple counts of robbery with violence and escaping from lawful custody. A date has not yet been set for that case.
Media reports at the time said he and two others were trying to sneak into Somalia disguised as women.
Lawyer Jared Bosire, who represents Breik Islam, said all four accused had been beaten by police after their arrests in December and that their counsel would seek redress for this. He also complained about delays in giving the defence copies of the evidence available already, such as the government report on the items seized.
Bosire said that the defendants had had a “raw deal” because of the adjournments and also because the charges have not been adequately explained.
The defence lawyers also alleged that Grant was being held in isolation, and said this was unfair.
Security sources in Nairobi say that when he was detained, Grant had plans for hotels and restaurants in Nairobi, where security is very tight at public places like shopping malls and restaurants after multiple warnings of possible terrorist attacks.
Kenya says it was forced to intervene in Somalia after a series of cross-border raids and kidnappings, blamed by officials on al-Shabaab. The group has threatened to retaliate with attacks in Kenya.
In a report published this month (pdf), the Royal United Services Institute said Britons make up about 25% of the 200 or so foreign fighters believed to have joined al-Shabaab, and that these overseas fighters could herald a new wave of international terrorism.
Abubakar Manswab and Breik Islam have been released on bail, but Ngala is still being held as he could not meet the bail terms.
from Clar Ni Chonghaile