Three suspects were on Wednesday convicted over the 2015 Garissa University terror attack.
Nairobi Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi found Mohamed Ali Abdikadir, Hassan Aden Hassan and Rashid Charles Mberesero guilty of taking part in the attack that left 148 people dead. Mr Andayi, however, freed Sahal Diry Hussein for lack of evidence.
“I … find that the prosecution proved its case against Mohamed Ali Abdikadir, Hassan Aden Hassan and Rashid Charles Mberesero beyond reasonable doubt for the offences of conspiring to commit a terrorist act, murder and being members of Al-Shabaab terrorism group,” he said in the ruling.
He acknowledged that it is always not easy to find a direct link in terrorism, describing the crime as covert in nature, even as he convicted the trio.
Just like the prosecution, Mr Andayi said he had opted to rely on circumstantial evidence placing the convicts at the scene of the crime and their link to it.
He pointed out that, for commission of a terrorism act to be proven, there must be some form of mutual agreement, a widespread crime that caused fear and sought to coerce the government to meet certain demands.
He said use of force should be evident enough and must be one that can cause extreme panic. He then ruled that all the above elements were evident in the April 2, 2015 attack and that its motive was to coerce the government to remove its troops from Somalia.
“It is not necessary that conspirators have to meet or know each other. What is material is agreement to participate and execute,” Mr Andayi said.
For Mberesero, the court found him guilty because he was found hiding under a bed in room 13B in one of the hostels. When asked to identify himself, he could not properly do so and gave conflicting information, a move that led to his arrest by officers who were on a mission to rescue traumatised and injured victims of the attack.
Prior to the attack, he had been sleeping at a mosque in Mororo, Tana River, just a walking distance from the university. He religiously went for early morning prayers except on the day of the attack.
He only left a bag at the mosque with his belongings and never returned for three days until police came for it. The bag had a letter written at the back of a black notebook in which he had described himself as a commander willing to fight for Jihad for Allah’s favour and that he was waiting on Allah’s grace.
At the time of his arrest, he was taken into custody for being in the country unlawfully, a charge that he was acquitted of on Wednesday.
As for Abdikadir and Hassan, they were found guilty because their phone numbers were in direct communication with the main attacker, who was not present in court.
Even though all the four had denied playing any role in the attack, the magistrate found that Mberesero and Diriye were seen in the company of the others. Diriye was found at a bus station in Mandera with Abdikadir and was identified by other passengers as his accomplice.
The magistrate further ruled that there was no basis that the accused persons had been embarrassed or prejudiced by the charges levelled against them.
The magistrate questioned the fact that there was no one from the institution who testified in the case. And, while the three have been convicted over the attack, they will still have to wait until July 3 to know their exact fates.
The court ordered that probation officers should prepare a Victim Impact Statement for each of them before then.
In Eldoret, survivors of the terror incident expressed satisfaction that justice had finally been served.