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Defence lawyers oppose proposed court visit to Westgate Shopping Mall

COUNTIES
By By FRED MAKANA | January 17th 2014

By FRED MAKANA

Defence in the ongoing trial of three Westgate Shopping Mall attack suspects yesterday opposed a suggestion by the prosecution that the court should visit the mall to familiarise itself with the scene of crime.

State counsel Mungai Warui made the application to have the court visit the scene of crime to avoid any doubts in future.

His application was opposed by lawyer Mbugua Mureithi on grounds that it was too early to visit the scene. Instead, the lawyer proposed that the visit be conducted towards the end of the trial.

Acting Chief Magistrate Daniel Ochenja, however, said the visit to the mall could not,  in any way, prejudice the case. He is expected to make a ruling on the matter today and set a date when the court will visit the scene.

During yesterday’s proceedings, Paul Mulandi, the head of security at the shopping mall, said how he escaped death by a whisker.

“It was at around 12.39pm. There was a power blackout and I went to see the situation in the generator room. Shortly after, I heard two loud explosions which a colleague mistook for a transformer (explosion), but the explosions were followed by gunshots,” he said

Mr Mulandi said he ran towards the main entrance of the mall only to find guards fleeing.

“I was accompanied by a colleague known as Morris when we were approached by two men with guns who shouted stop, stop in English. Moris attempted to run away and was shot severally and fell down but I stood still,” the witness said.

He said he was forced to hide below a flower after the attackers by-passed him. He also said he overheard the attackers converse in Somali.

“They were dressed in black jackets. One was tall and heavily built, the second was medium-sized and had ammunition slung over his chest.”

He was testifying in a case in which Mohammed Ahmed, Ahmed Dheq, Abdula Omar and Hussein Hassan Mustafa are charged with the attack in which more than 67 people were killed.

The suspects are not accused of carrying out the attack directly, but of lending support to the gunmen.

Another witness, Thomas Kamau, a hair designer, who ran a salon in the mall, said he saw two men shooting inside a car.

“They were slim and had ammunition slung over their chest. He said one of them shouted in English: ‘We are Al Shabaab’. The witness said the two attackers he saw had black headscarves, combat trousers and heavy firearms.

Hearing continues today.

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