Five quarry workers in Mandera have been handed a 10-year jail term for travelling to Somalia with the intention of joining Al-Shabaab.
Mandera Senior Resident Magistrate Peter Areri on Wednesday found the miners guilty of having travelled to the neighbouring country on November 11 last year without passing through a designated immigration point.
“I have found each of the accused persons guilty as charged and I proceed to convict them under section 215 of Criminal Procedure Court (CPC),” said Mr Areri.
The men are David Mburu, John Odhiambo, Pius Wambua, Nicholus Mukhoma and Peter Wainaina.
A warrant of arrest issued against the sixth suspect, Mr Leosina Wanyonyi, was extended to allow the police more time to find him.
Mr Wanyonyi fled after the court on January 18 released them on a personal bond of Sh100,000 each.
The six could not raise the initial Sh1 million bond with two sureties of similar amount for each issued by the same court. Prosecutors say Mr Wanyonyi led the five into Somalia to join Al-Shabaab.
Mr Areri said all the accused pleaded guilty to the charges after facts were read to them by prosecutors, led by State Counsel Kennedy Amwayi on November 19, 2015.
“On mitigation, each made statements which led the court to conclude that the plea was not unequivocal and I proceeded to enter a plea of not guilty and fixed the case for trial,” said Mr Areri.
Their plea of guilty was changed on November 19 by Mr Areri to not guilty after the accused admitted they were arrested in Somalia after getting lost on their way to their work station.
They were arrested on November 11 in Bulahawa town, Somalia, and handed over to Kenyan authorities after their employer intervened.
Mr Jama Hussein Maalim, the owner of the Fiqo quarry where the accused worked, was also arrested and charged with facilitating their mission to join Al-Shabaab in Somalia, but prosecutors dropped the case and made him a witness.
“I have considered the evidence of the prosecution which is not challenged, denied or contravened by the accused persons and the unsworn statement of the second accused,” said Mr Areri.
When put on defence, Mr Odhiambo gave an unsworn statement but the rest chose to remain silent and await the court’s decision.
The accused pleaded for forgiveness, arguing they were new in Mandera and that they had lost their way after moving to a new house near the Kenya-Somalia border.
Their personal bond was cancelled on February 9 after prosecutors expressed fears that the suspects could escape like Mr Wanyonyi.
The accused have 14 days to appeal.