Uganda clears 18, remands 17 in World Cup blast case

KAMPALA Wed Dec 1, 2010 4:03pm IST

File photo of a Ugandan family loads a coffin of a relative killed in bomb blasts from Mulago Hospital for burial, in Kampala July 13, 2010. REUTERS/Ronald Kabuubi/Files

File photo of a Ugandan family loads a coffin of a relative killed in bomb blasts from Mulago Hospital for burial, in Kampala July 13, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Ronald Kabuubi/Files

Related Topics

KAMPALA (Reuters) - Uganda dropped charges against 18 people related to suicide bombings that killed 79 people watching the World Cup final on television, but remanded 17 others in custody to face trial, defence lawyers said.

The twin suicide blasts at a restaurant and a sports club on July 11 were the first attacks on foreign soil by militants of Somalia's al Shabaab group, which claims links to al Qaeda.

The bombings heightened the security threat in east Africa, a region viewed by the West as a fertile breeding ground for Islamist extremists.

The rebels have threatened to carry out more attacks until Uganda and Burundi withdraw their troops from an African Union force which is trying to help Somalia's besieged government end two decades of chaos.

"Eighteen were cleared and it's not known yet when the 17 remanded will face trial but it will probably not be before March," Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi, a lawyer who represents 7 of those cleared and 8 remanded in custody, told Reuters late on Tuesday.

The 17 still in custody will face charges of terrorism, murder and attempted murder in the High Court. Three of the cleared men were immediately re-arrested, but lawyers said it was unclear what charges they face.

Rights groups and defence lawyers expressed surprise that prominent Kenyan human rights activist Al-Amin Kimathi was among those remanded to face trial.

Kimathi, who heads the Muslim Human Rights Forum in neighbouring Kenya, was arrested in Kampala on Sept. 15 after travelling there to witness court hearings of Kenyan suspects extradited to Uganda.

"The decision to persist with the charges against Al-Amin Kimathi raises serious concerns that this prosecution is really an effort to muzzle a well-known critic of government abuses in the fight against terrorism in East Africa," New-York based Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

Kenya's intelligence services have said Kimathi was the "centre piece" in al Qaeda's regional propaganda wing, leaked reports showed.

"I expected him to be cleared because I have read the summary of evidence against him and most of it... is not related to the bombings in Kampala," said Rwakafuuzi, who represents Kimathi.

Western and regional intelligence agencies fear that Somalia's porous borders and lack of a strong central government may make the Horn of Africa nation a safe haven for Islamist militants looking to attack the region and beyond.

(Editing by James Macharia and Tim Pearce)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Canada Shooting

REUTERS SHOWCASE

HK Protests

HK Protests

Hong Kong protesters plan march after fruitless talks with government.  Full Article 

Double Murder

Double Murder

Thailand tourist murder suspects retract confessions.  Full Article 

Rousseff in Lead

Rousseff in Lead

Brazil's Rousseff pulls ahead of Neves before Sunday's election - poll.  Full Article 

Indonesia Cabinet

Indonesia Cabinet

Indonesia president to make new cabinet picks after 8 rejected.  Full Article 

Fighting Ebola

Fighting Ebola

J&J aims for 1 million Ebola vaccine doses in 2015.  Full Article 

Baghdad Bombing

Baghdad Bombing

Baghdad restaurant bombs kill 21  Full Article 

Canada On Alert

Canada On Alert

Canada raises terrorism threat level, cites Islamist chatter.  Full Article 

Foreign Threat?

Foreign Threat?

Sweden gets two new sightings, as hunt for undersea intruder goes on.  Full Article 

Iran Nuclear Talks

Iran Nuclear Talks

Exclusive: Iran offers "compromises" in nuclear talks, West unmoved  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage