Lady Justice Cecilia Githua
When terrorists attacked Garissa University on the border of Kenya and Somalia in April 2015, 148 people were killed and hundreds of survivors were left with lifelong scars. Last week the victims finally felt some relief after High Court Judge Cecilia Githua upheld a 25 and a half year jail sentence for two of those involved in planning the attack, Hassan Edin Hassan and Mohammed Abdi Abikar.
“Their actions of aiding and abetting terrorists who carried out the actual cowardly and premeditated acts which caused much suffering to families of deceased persons and still traumatises the survivors who bear the scars for the rest of their lives, cannot be forgiven,” stated the judge.
Justice Githua delivered her judgement with a warning that no court will have mercy on terrorists who ended innocent lives, including those of the vulnerable and defenceless university students who had nothing to do with the government’s war with the Al-Shabaab terror group in Somalia.
The lead prosecutor, Duncan Ondimu, celebrated the decision as a milestone in the fight against extremist groups, saying the decision was justice served to families who lost loved ones and the many injured survivors whose lives have never recovered.
Survivors of the attack said they were satisfied with the decision to see the men who aided the terrorists serving jail sentences, even as they continued to push the government to compensate them.
Ben Mwiti is among the students injured in the terrorist attack who have jointly filed a petition at the High Court seeking compensation from the government for security negligence.
“We are happy that the people who planned the terrorism act have been jailed. The injuries they left us with made some of us disabled. They left us with painful and traumatising memories. Justice has been done by affirming the jail sentence,” Mwiti said.
On 2 April 2015, seven armed terrorists stormed the university killing 148 people and injuring 79. Somali-based militant group Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility, saying the attack was in revenge for Kenya’s decision to send their military to Somalia.
In July 2019, then Milimani Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi found Hassan, Abikar and Rashid Mberesero guilty of planning the terror attack. Hassan and Abikar were sentenced to 41 years each and Mberesero received a life sentence. The three appealed to the High Court. Mberesero subsequently committed suicide in November 2020 while at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison.
Justice Githua dismissed Hassan and Abikar’s appeal on the main sentence, ruling that they cannot escape punishment after evidence proved they took part in planning the terrorist act by being in constant communication with the attackers.
“Although they did not physically participate in the killings, the telephone conversations between them and the terrorists left no doubt that they were involved in planning and commissioning the offence,” the judge ruled.
She added that persons who aid the commissioning of a terrorism act are treated like principal offenders, given that terrorism is a heinous transnational crime that not only devastates victims but also poses risks to international peace and security.
The High Court however set aside Hassan and Abikar’s conviction and 15-year sentence for being members of Al-Shabaab. ruling that there was no evidence to prove they were members of the militia group.
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