January 19, 2010 / 9:47 AM / 9 years ago

Kenya charges Muslim activist following riots

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya charged a prominent Muslim activist with incitement to violence on Tuesday over riots last week that rocked the centre of the capital Nairobi.

Al-Amin Kimathi, chairman of Kenya's Muslim Human Rights Forum, lifts his handcuffs during his arrest at the Nairobi Law Court January 18, 2010. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

Al-Amin Kimathi, chairman of Kenya’s Muslim Human Rights Forum, is accused in connection with Friday’s protest against attempts to deport Jamaican cleric Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal, which degenerated into hours of running street battles.

The state-funded but independent Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) said the government risked divisions based on religion, in a country already divided along tribal lines, through its handling of the matter.

“The government appears to advance the same strategy of profiling persons of communities to pave the way for blanket violation of the rights of members of such communities,” said, Hassan Omar, KNHRC’s vice chairman.

Kimathi, who was arrested on Monday at Nairobi’s High Court, where seven other suspects were charged over the turmoil, was later freed by the court on a cash bail of 100,000 shillings and ordered to return on Friday.

Civil unrest in Kenya is particularly worrying following post-election violence in 2008 that killed some 1,300 people. Given the regional threat from Somali radicals seen as a proxy for al Qaeda, it is even more of concern for a nation that has in the past been hit by two al Qaeda-linked attacks.

Later on Monday, Kenya’s foreign affairs minister said the government had secured a flight to Jamaica for Faisal, and that it expected him to leave in two days.

SOMALI MARCHERS

Friday’s demonstration against the deportation of Faisal was organised by Kenyan Muslims, but many of the marchers who fought with the security forces in the city centre for more than eight hours were Somalis.

At Friday’s protest, some demonstrators carried black flags identified with Somalia’s hardline Islamist rebel group al Shabaab and there were reports of mobs attacking Somalis.

Kenya is host to a large community of Somali refugees who are sometimes blamed by locals for driving up property prices in the capital because of raising demand and their willingness to pay premium prices for the property.

Government spokesman Alfred Mutua told a local radio station a law to restrict the sale of properties to foreigners was being drafted.

He said this was meant to protect the market from people coming in with money that cannot be accounted for to invest in the sector.

Another 150 suspects including some members of the Somali parliament were charged on Monday with being in the country illegally, a day after security forces raided a mainly Somali suburb of Kenya’s capital and arrested scores of people.

The Kenyan government has been quick to blame Friday’s violence that killed at least one person on youths exposed to “foreign elements”, and has assured Kenyan Muslims their religious freedom and civil liberties will be respected.

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