Kenyan activist may sue FBI over year in prison

AP News
Posted: Sep 13, 2011 10:16 AM
Kenyan activist may sue FBI over year in prison

A Kenyan activist said Tuesday he may sue the FBI over their part in interrogating him while he was held without trial for a year in Uganda on terror charges.

Al-Amin Kimathi of the Kenya-based Muslim Human Rights Forum said he saw FBI agents "many times" in his cell and that Ugandan intelligence agents told him they had received written questions from the FBI and were sharing information with them.

"Since I strongly believe in their involvement and have prima facie evidence of that involvement, I will be consulting with my lawyers...to see if I can sue them," he told The Associated Press in the Kenyan capital a day after his release.

Kimathi was arrested last year after traveling to Uganda to observe court hearings of Kenyan suspects in the July 2010 bombings in Uganda's capital, Kampala, that killed 76 people.

Somalia's militants have claimed responsibility for the attacks and said they did it to avenge Somali civilians killed by Ugandan peacekeepers in Mogadishu.

Ugandan authorities jailed Kimathi and charged him with terrorism, murder and attempted murder, but failed to disclose the full evidence against him and another 18 defendants. The detention drew fire from international rights groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, who called for Kimathi's release. Kimathi said often he was only given one meal a day.

A Ugandan judge finally dropped charges against Kimathi on Monday. The spokesman for the Ugandan judiciary, Erias Kisawuzi, said Tuesday that the judge was following instructions from Uganda's director of public prosecution.

"The Ugandan court has shown great sense in dropping terrorism charges against Kimathi," said Rona Peligal, deputy director of the Africa division at Human Rights Watch. "The rights of the other suspects, many of whom still do not have legal representation, must not be forgotten as their case proceeds to trial."

In a written statement, Kimathi said he was "greatly relieved to have been vindicated."

Kimathi said the FBI didn't personally interrogate him because they "knew of the implications" of doing that, but "they controlled things from next door and set up gadgets for listening in."

Activists have previously said that they believe Uganda is being used as a base to interrogate people of interest to the Kenyan security forces and the FBI.

Rights lawyer Mbugua Mureithi, who had also been detained in Uganda along with Kimathi, but was then released, said that he was interrogated in the presence of an FBI agent and that three of the Kenyans he was representing told him that they were interrogated five times by foreigners who introduced themselves as FBI agents.

Days after the Kampala bombings, the FBI's New York office and the New York Police Department said that a team of investigators, including forensic experts, from the city's Joint Terrorism Task Force was en route to Uganda to assist authorities with the probe.

A U.S. government spokesman denied at the time charges that any FBI agents were present when Mureithi was questioned. The U.S. embassy in Kenya did not have an immediate response when contacted for comment Monday.

Kimathi's Kenya-based Muslim Human Rights Forum has documented and publicly challenged arbitrary detentions and illegal renditions _ when suspects are taken to another country for interrogation without the proper extradition process _ in East Africa.

In 2007, Kimathi uncovered the arrest of dozens of terror suspects in Kenya after the fall of an Islamist administration in Somalia. An investigation by The Associated Press found those suspects were flown to Ethiopia and some were questioned by American agents. Most have since been released without charge.


Associated Press reporter Godfrey Olukya contributed to this report from Kampala, Uganda.