Seven suspected officials of Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) have been acquitted after seven years of trial.
The seven suspects were freed after the prosecution failed to prove that MRC is an unlawful society.
Those acquitted are Randu Nzai Ruwa, Mohammed Rashid, Omar Suleiman, Nyae Ngao, Robert Charo, Salim Ali, Salim Hamisi and the group’s chairman, Omar Hamisi Mwamnuadzi, who is on the run.
Mombasa Senior Principal Magistrate Francis Kyambia discharged the suspects since witnesses who had testified in the case failed to assist the prosecution to make its case against the accused persons.
“Coupled with insufficient evidence by the prosecution, the declaration by the Court of Appeal that MRC is not an organised criminal group, I find that the prosecution has not made a 'prima facie' case to warrant placing the accused persons on their defence,” the magistrate said.
“The charges are dismissed under section 210 of the Criminal Procedure Code and the accused persons acquitted,” Mr Kyambia added.
The suspects had been charged with being members of an unlawful society. They had denied the charges and were released on a Sh200,000 bond each. Their trial had dragged in court since the prosecution could not present witnesses.
The prosecution asked for several adjournments to bond witnesses, but the same proved futile, forcing the court to decline requests for further adjournments and order the closure of the prosecution case last year. The prosecution had only presented two witnesses by July last year.
The court was concerned that the matter had been pending before it for at least seven years yet the prosecution had no witnesses to enable the case to continue.
Those who testified had told the court that at the time the group was formed, it had not been approved for registration since its activities had not been vetted, leading to the arrest of its members. It was viewed as an illegal group whose intention was to participate in illegal activities.
But, while dismissing the case, the magistrate noted that two witnesses who testified in the matter did not give evidence to show that MRC is an unlawful society.
“For the prosecution to make a case against the accused persons, they must give evidence to show that the alleged society is unlawful. The testimony of two witnesses was not of any help to the court,” Mr Kyambia said.
The High Court had lifted a ban on the group, a decision which was also upheld by the Court of Appeal. In July 2016, the Court of Appeal upheld the decision to lift the ban on the group.
Judges Daniel Musinga, William Ouko, Patrick Kiage, Kathurima M’Inoti and Jamila Mohammed ruled that the government’s ban on MRC was improperly effected, even if the group was considered a threat to national security.
In dismissing the State’s appeal against a High Court ruling that set aside the 2010 ban, the judges said the Internal Security minister erred in effecting it.
This has contributed to the acquittal of most suspects who were arrested and charged with being members of MRC.
The group has been calling for the secession of the Coast region from Kenya.
Mr Mwamnuadzi, however, went missing shortly after being arrested and charged over his membership to the group.
The court ordered that all sureties deposited by the accused persons be discharged and returned to them. It is not clear whether Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, who stood surety for Mr Mwamnuadzi, will get back his property since the suspect jumped bail.