MOMBASA, Kenya (AP) — British diplomats recommended that a British man detained in Kenya 2 ½ years ago on suspicion of attempting to join Islamic fighters in Somalia be freed, the lawyer who represented him said Thursday. The man was let go and last week allegedly helped butcher a British soldier on the streets of London.
Michael Adebolajo's lawyer, Wycliffe Makasembo, said a letter from the British High Commission in Nairobi recommended that the man be released because there was no tangible evidence to link him to the crime.
"They noted that the suspects had not yet crossed over to Somalia and thus, there was no cause to charge them," Makasembo told a reporter.
Rosemary Mutoka, the magistrate who presided over the case in Kenya's port city of Mombasa, ruled that there was no clear information about the circumstances and what Adebolajo and other suspects were found doing that led to the police arresting them.
Court records examined by a reporter on Thursday show Adebolajo was arrested on Nov. 21, 2010, with eight others on suspicion that they were trying to cross over to Somalia to join al-Shabab militants. Adebolajo was arraigned in the court on Nov. 23, 2010. The court granted the Anti-terrorism Police Unit officers two days to interrogate him, the court records show, but it is not clear when he was released.
However, a statement on Tuesday by the Foreign Commonwealth Office in London suggests Adebolajo may have been deported.
"There is an established procedure for returning foreign nationals to the UK from overseas. Individuals arrested abroad and not facing charges there are usually put on the next available flight by authorities of that country," the statement said.
John Bradshaw, spokesman for the British High Commission in Nairobi, referred queries on whether it had written a letter recommending Adebolajo's release to the Foreign Office in London. When asked about the issue, Britain's Foreign Office confirmed that a British national was arrested in Kenya in 2010 and that the Foreign Office had "provided consular assistance as normal" for U.K. nationals. The court file examined by a reporter does not currently contain any letter from the British High Commissioner's office.
Adebolajo is a key suspect in the brazen killing of off-duty soldier Lee Rigby, 25, who was slain by two men wielding knives and meat cleavers near his barracks in southeast London's Woolwich area. The two suspects were shot by police and arrested on suspicion of murder.
Courts files show that Adebolajo and others were arrested in 2010 at Kizingitini village, on Pate Island in the Lamu archipelago. An affidavit sworn by Stephen Hamisi from the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit claimed that investigations had indicated that the suspects were heading to Somalia before being intercepted.
Kenyan police believed Adebolajo, a British citizen, had earlier associated with a radical Kenyan Muslim cleric who tried to help him join al-Shabab, an al-Qaida-linked rebel group in Somalia. Muslim cleric Aboud Rogo Mohammed, who was gunned down in August by unidentified gunmen in Mombasa, helped Adebolajo in his attempt to travel to Somalia to wage jihad, or holy war, against the country's United Nations-backed government, a senior Kenyan police official said Tuesday. The official insisted on anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press on this matter.
Makasembo was representing Adebolajo even though the Law Society of Kenya website says he was not cleared to practice law in 2010 because he did not have practicing certificate for that year. An official of the society said that without a practicing certificate issued by the organization, a lawyer cannot write legal documents or represent client before a judge or magistrate. Court officials don't often ask for a lawyer's certificate.