Uganda frees Kenyan activist held over Kampala blast

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Uganda freed a Kenyan human rights activist arrested last year in connection with a Kampala bomb attack by Somalia’s al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab insurgents after the state prosecutor dropped murder and terrorism charges against him, his lawyer said.

Al-Amin Kimathi, who heads the Muslim Human Rights Forum in neighbouring Kenya, was arrested in the Ugandan capital last September after travelling to the east African country to witness court hearings of eight other Kenyan suspects extradited to Uganda, also facing murder and terrorism charges.

Ben Cooper, Kimathi’s lawyer, told Reuters a high court judge informed them at the start of his trial in the capital Kampala that the state had dropped all charges against him, Reuters reports.
“The judge told us the state has decided to withdraw charges against him,” Cooper said.
“After one year in prison and a lot of suffering the state has finally realised that they have no evidence against him.”

They were extradited to Uganda after being accused of involvement in twin blasts that ripped through crowds watching the soccer World Cup final in July 2010 in Kampala, killing 79 people and wounding several dozen.

Somalia’s al Shabaab movement claimed responsibility, saying it was retribution for Uganda’s troop deployment to the African Union peace keeping mission in Mogadishu.

The east African country forms the bulk of the A.U.-mandated AMISOM peace keeping force that is shoring up the teetering Transitional Federal Government (TFG).
“Al-Amin travelled to Uganda to defend the rule of law and he ended up being a victim of lack of the same,” Cooper said.

The state prosecutor did not respond to calls to explain reasons for dropping the charges.

Cooper said Kimathi had been released alongside another Kenyan, a Somali and two Ugandans facing the same charges.



In the months following the blasts, Uganda arrested more than 30 suspects of Ugandan and foreign nationalities but has since released most of them and now only 13 remain in custody, according local media.
“Kimathi seems to have been sitting in jail for a year for calling attention to injustices by Kenya and Uganda,” Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.