NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) - A court charged seven Kenyans on Monday
with assaulting police officers during a deadly protest last week
where protesters demanded the release of an extremist Muslim cleric
being detained in the East African country.
The leader of the group that organized Friday's demonstration,
meanwhile, was arrested Monday after attending the court hearing.
Kenyan authorities also said they had arrested about 400 people in
a crackdown on suspected Muslim extremist sympathizers who they say
were behind the protest.
Kenyan Muslims criticized the actions taken by authorities,
accusing the government of discrimination.
The detained cleric, Abdullah el-Faisal, once served four years
in a British jail for inciting murder and stirring racial hatred by
urging followers to kill Americans, Hindus and Jews. British
authorities say his teachings also heavily influenced one of the
men who carried out the London bombings that killed 52 people.
El-Faisal, who was arrested in Kenya after preaching in local
mosques, is being held because authorities here consider him a
threat to national security. They unsuccessfully tried to deport
the Jamaican-born cleric to the West African nation of Gambia.
On Friday, protesters gathered to call for his release. The
Muslim Human Rights Forum says at least five people were killed
when police shot at demonstrators, while the government says only
one person died.
The seven Kenyans who appeared in court on Monday also were
charged with unlawful assembly, stealing and malicious damage to
property. They pleaded not guilty to the charges and were released
Soon afterward, an Associated Press reporter saw police arrest
Al-Amin Kimathi, the head of the Muslim Human Rights Forum that
organized Friday's protest. Kimathi's lawyer, Harun Ndubi, said he
was shoved aside when he tried to ask why plainclothes police
officers were arresting his client.
Kenyan Internal Security Minister George Saitoti has blamed
Friday's violence on sympathizers of al-Shabab, an extremist
Islamic group based in neighboring Somalia. Saitoti said that claim
was based on intelligence reports, but he has not offered any other
Police arrested about 400 people late Sunday in a crackdown on
suspected al-Shabab sympathizers, according to Nairobi police chief
Al-Shabab is fighting to overthrow Somalia's weak government,
and the U.S. State Department has designated the group a terrorist
organization with links to al-Qaida.
"We are removing these people who are creating problems,"
Kibuchi said, indirectly referring to claims that al-Shabab
sympathizers are also in Kenya.
Of the 400 arrested, 152 of them were to be charged later Monday
with being in the country illegally, Prosecutor Joseph Musyoka
said. If found guilty, they could be fined more than $1,300 and
Kibuchi said police are still vetting more than 200 people who
remain in their custody.
"I want to burn my identity card," said Mohammed Abdul outside
the magistrate's court where his brother was among the 152 people
to be charged. "As (Kenyan) Somali(s) we are being branded as
al-Shabab or pirates. Is it because of our religion?"
Muslims, who make up about 10 percent of Kenya's population,
have long complained about discrimination by successive governments
and neglect of parts of the country where they form the majority.
A Somali diplomat in Nairobi, Mohamed Osman Aden, said 12 Somali
lawmakers were among the 400 arrested Sunday. A Nairobi court
released two of them after finding they were in the country
Aden said the Somali Embassy has sent a protest letter to
Kenya's foreign ministry.