A madrassa teacher was on Thursday sentenced to 20 years imprisonment after being found guilty of radicalising primary school pupils in Kilifi County.
Mr Samuel Wanjala Wabwile, alias Salim Mohamed, was, however, acquitted of two counts of recruiting six primary school children to be members of Al-Shabaab and being a member of the proscribed group.
In her judgment, Mombasa Principal Magistrate Diana Mochache said she believed the accused preyed on the pupils' feeble minds to impart his ideological beliefs.
“The accused took advantage of the poverty rate in the region by offering the children some food, using it as a bait to trap them, most children walked bare feet and their uniforms were tattered,” said Ms Mochache.
She added that the accused should be kept away from the public for a long time.
“The accused person deserves no mercy, he needs protection from himself, he has already sold his soul to the devil and was in the process of selling others (souls),” said Ms Mochache.
The accused is a former political science and IT student at Maseno University, where he was admitted in 2011 but was later expelled.
The magistrate said she had to observe the demeanour of the accused who smiled throughout the testimony of all witnesses.
Ms Mochache said the accused became sad when a document examiner stepped into the witness.
According to the magistrate, the change of demeanour showed that the accused was a “wolf in the sheep’s clothing”.
The magistrate added that even though the accused denied having committed the offence and blames teachers of having coached the pupils to bear false witness against him, she believed that the children told the court the truth.
Ms Mochache said radicalisation is a gradual process and that the first incident involved pupils who profess the Islamic faith taunting and jeering their Christian schoolmates.
“This culminated in a counselling session overseen by the school administration, the area chief and the OCS,” said the magistrate.
Ms Mochache also noted that only one child witness spoke positively about the accused and that having observed the child’s demeanour, she noted that the child withheld some information from the court an indicator that the minor was radicalised.
The accused committed the offence on diverse dates between January 8, 2013 and June 19, 2015 at Gotani location, Kilifi County.
According to the prosecution, he promoted extreme ‘jihadism’ for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance religious change by teaching fighting techniques at a mosque.
In acquitting the accused on the two counts, the court noted that the prosecution hinged its case on shreds of inadmissible evidence and also failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.
“Having established that the accused is not a member of the outlawed Al Shabaab, it therefore follows that he could not have recruited the pupils to become members of the Al-Shabaab”, said the magistrate.
The magistrate said it was incumbent upon the prosecution to demonstrate that the accused recruited the pupils to become members of Al Shabaab.