Supreme Court Judges read riot act to lawyer Ahmednasir and jail his Iranian clients

Abdolhosein Gholi and Sayed Ebrahim at the Supreme Court in Nairobi yesterday. [George Njunge, Standard]
The Supreme Court yesterday reversed the acquittal of two Iranian citizens and upheld their 15-year jail term for terrorism.

The Court of Appeal had acquitted Sayed Nasrollah Ebrahim and Abdolhosein Gholi after they appealed the High Court sentencing.

The Supreme Court found that evidence given showed that the two planted a 15kg explosive at a Mombasa golf course. The court also gave the lawyer representing the duo, Ahmednasir Abdullahi, a dressing down for allegedly continuously disrespecting the court.

Nasrollah and Gholi’s trial at the highest court was characterised by high drama, heated exchanges and tension.

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Ahmednasir, in his submissions, before Chief Justice David Maraga and Justices Mohamed Ibrahim, Jackton Ojwang, Njoki Ndungu, Isaac Lenaola and Smokin Wanjala last year sensationally referred to the court as a “headless chicken,” a “surrogate of the State” and “incoherent.”

He said the judges were biased against his clients and were a “jurisprudential train wreck and they churn out decisions that are counterfeits.”

Yesterday, the senior counsel was not present in court when the judges delivered a 29-minute ruling addressing “his unbecoming behaviour”. The court put a knot to the issue with a warning that if he repeats the same, he will get five days in jail or a Sh500,000 fine for contempt. Justice Ojwang read the ruling on behalf of the other judges. He said Ahmednasir ought to have argued his clients’ case without casting aspersions.

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“It baffles the mind how Abdullahi, an advocate of the High Court and leading member of the Law Society of Kenya, seeking justice for his clients would address this court in such terms,” said Justice Ojwang.

“Mr Abdullahi was more than discourteous to this court. Weightful insults directed at a judge during trial is prohibited in all civilised legal process. The purpose of this ruling is limited to depicting the face of grumpy and ill-tempered behaviour before the Supreme Court.”

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In the Iranians’ case, the court was split, with a majority four – Justices Maraga, Lenaola, Ndungu and Ojwang – finding that the visit to the golf course three times plus failure to give evidence on their business in Kenya and subsequent admission by Nasrollah that they had an explosive led the court to agree with the State that the two were indeed guilty.

It emerged that the two, who will now spend the remaining eight years in Kamiti Maximum Prison having already served seven years behind bars, had allegedly come to Kenya for a 10-day holiday. They changed the story that they wanted to establish a tourist business in the country.

“From the record, the respondents were visiting Kenya for the first time. They claimed they wanted to start a tourist charter flight but they never talked to any business persons in the country. It is curious that they asked the taxi driver to take them to the same spot they were at the previous day. Why? What business did they have in a golf course?” posed Ojwang.

Justices Ibrahim and Wanjala in their dissent said the Court of Appeal was right to acquit the two as the golf course was an open area where anyone would access.

They said although terror attacks have claimed lives and maimed others, there was no need of putting guilt on the two as there were unexplained gaps in the State’s narrative.

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Supreme CourtIranian citizensTerrorismAhmednasir Abdullahi