Two suspected ISIS sympathisers detained in Mombasa

Suspects Fatuma Nohamed Rashid (right) and Aisha Faiz Hyder (second right) at Shanzu Law Courts). (Photo: Kelvin Karani/Standard)

A Shanzu court has detained for 21 days two youngsters arrested at the Syria-Turkey border.

The prosecution had asked the court to give it more time to complete investigations.

After their arrest in Turkey, the two were handed over to the Kenyan High Commission in the European nation then brought back to Kenya.

The two and their mothers, Aisha Faiz Hyder and Fatuma Nohamed Rashid, were on February 18, 2017 arrested at their respective homes in Kizingo and Nyali.

In an affidavit, the investigating officer said: “The Syrian territory is highly infiltrated by the ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) and it is suspected that the two were sympathetic to ISIS and were travelling to join the movement.”

The officer told the court that the two had been in constant communication with their mothers since last September, adding that detectives had vital information on their links to ISIS.

Monday Principal Magistrate Diana Mochache said terrorism was a complex issue that takes a lot of time to investigate.

“It is my view that the State has raised reasonable issues about the suspects. Terror cases take a lot of time in extraction of information. Investigation is like a chain and a cobweb that needs time,” she said.

Ms Mochache said 21 days were sufficient, although the law allows the court to give parties up to 90 days to wind up investigations.

“The suspects will be remanded at (Port, Mtwapa, Bamburi and Nyali police stations). And the ladies to be supplied with basic toiletries and items only unique to women,” she said.

State prosecutor Berryne Marinda had argued that witness statements were yet to be recorded and that the accused were likely to tamper with evidence and interfere with potential witnesses.

“The public interest to secure evidence and witnesses outweighs the respondents’ private right to liberty and therefore warrants denial of suspects pre-trial bail,” she said.

But defence lawyer Teresa Mwangeka opposed the application, arguing that the State was basing its application on rumours.

Ms Mwangeka urged the court to grant the suspects bond and set terms for them to follow pending the conclusion of the investigation.

“There is no record of arrests in Syria and it is highly prejudicial to label the suspects as sympathisers of ISIS without proper records and evidence. The SIM cards, phones, and laptops confiscated from them can be subjected to analysis without having them in custody. The court has the jurisdiction to grant them alternative bond,” she said.

The case will be heard on March 13, 2017.

Kenya has been trying to contain the recruitment of youth by extremist groups, particularly in its coastal region, which has a Muslim-majority population and high unemployment.

The authorities fear that ISIS is trying to establish a presence in East Africa’s biggest economy and telecommunications and transport hub. Dozens of young Kenyans have travelled to Syria and Libya to join the extremist group, according to the police.

Last year, three women in their 20s raided a police station after pledging allegiance to the Islamic State, according to Kenyan authorities.

Hundreds of Kenyan youth make up Al-Shabab’s largest contingent of foreign fighters.