A court in Kenya’s port city of Mombasa set free a man convicted by a lower court in July 2016 of smuggling ivory and jailed for 20 years.
Judge Dorah Chepkwony said the sentence imposed on Mohamed Feisal, also fined 20 million shillings, was harsh as the minimum punishment set out by Kenyan law was a one year jail term and a million shilling fine.
“At the time of his sentencing, the accused had already been in custody for two years and had served his term,” Chepkwony said, adding evidence presented during his trial had not directly linked Feisal to the seized ivory.
The ruling could potentially undermine efforts by Kenya and its neighbours to curb rampant poaching.
Feisal, arrested in Tanzania in December 2014 after a consignment of ivory was seized at his warehouses in Mombasa, appealed the sentence. Prosecutors said at the time the 314 pieces of ivory weighing over two tonnes had an estimated value of 44 million shillings ($438,902.74).
In a statement, the Kenya Wildlife Service said it was “shocked” by the acquittal and would work with the East African country’s public prosecutor to appeal the ruling.