Court has found guilty three main suspects of Garissa University terror attack.
The three are Mohammed Ali Abdikar, Hassan Aden Hassan and Rashid Charles Mberesero.
In his ruling, chief magistrate Francis Andayi said though the prosecution had relied on circumstantial evidence, it had built a strong case against three of the accused using phone calls analysis and other items recovered at the scene of crime.
He said the three were guilty of committing a terrorist act, conspiracy to commit the terrorism act and being members of al Shabaab.
“The court finds that they knew of the plot and were part of the attackers as they were arrested while travelling from Garissa two days after the attack,” he said.
They will be sentenced on July 3 pending the presentation of additional evidence from the prosecution. Andayi, however, acquitted one of the accused, Sahal Diriye, for lack of evidence, rejecting the defence’s argument that they could not have been co-conspirators yet they do not know each other.
“It is not necessary for them to know each other as they could have met through a third party,” he added.
He noted that Mberesero, who was one of the five arrested over the deadly attack, was found in a hostel under the bed and was unable to explain what he was doing at the university and yet he was not a student there. In January, the court freed one of the five suspects.
According to the magistrate it showed that Mberesero was part of the group that had attacked the university, saying he was probably the commander of the terrorists.
“It was most probable that the accused had learned about the ground well and led the attackers to the scene,” Andayi ruled.
He, however, acquitted Mberesero, a Tanzanian, of the charge of being in Kenya illegally and wondered why no official from the university had testified in court to confirm whether he was a student or a staff.
“I find it intriguing that no official from the university came to testify in this matter,” he said.
Andayi further noted that the prosecution had produced a letter recovered from Mberesero, indicating that he was about to join a Jihadist group, thereby confirming he was part of the attackers.
“The message he wrote in his book being prepared for Jihad shows that he was a commander and he was also indeed part of the attackers,” ruled the magistrate.
The other two convicted persons, Abdikadir and Hassan, were linked to the attack through their mobile phones because they were communicating with four of the attackers who were gunned down by police.
Andayi observed that, the two must have been in constant communication with the attackers, ostensibly to provide them with logistical support.
The magistrate noted that there was a central number that was used by the attackers and which the accused persons had in their phone. The number belonged to Hadid Hassan Isaack, who was one of the suspects that were killed.
“I am satisfied that what happened in 2015 at Garissa University bore the elements of a terrorist act. The act occurred to coerce the government to pull out its troops from Somalia. The accused persons knew the plot and were part of the attackers by agreement,” ruled the court.
The magistrate noted though it is not easy to get evidence of conspiracy, co-conspirators can meet through a third party.
“In the present case, I find the accused persons were in active communication with the attackers. They did so through communication of mobile phones while the fifth accused, Mberesero, has been shown to have been in the company of the attackers at the scene,” Andayi ruled.
The magistrate further convicted the three of being members of al Shabaab, which carried out the attack, saying the prosecution had indeed proved its case against them.
While acquitting Diriye, the magistrate noted that there was no evidence against him and the only link was his company with the other accused persons when they were arrested in a bus.
The four had been put on their defence in January when the court ruled they had a case to answer, while one of the co-accused Osman Abdi Dagane, who was a watchman at the institution, was acquitted as there was no evidence linking him to the attack.
The dawn attack took place when armed al Shabaab gunmen stormed Garissa University College and shot indiscriminately killing 148 people, among them students and security officers and injuring many. The prosecution called 22 witnesses.