People involved in terrorist activities risk being jailed for life and their properties seized if a proposed new law is passed.
These are some of the stiff penalties in the Prevention of Terrorism Bill, 2012, an updated version of the Suppression of Terrorism Bill of 2003 that was withdrawn after an uproar over provisions that critics said violated human rights.
The new law also provides compensation for terrorist victims. The proposed Compensation of Victims of Terrorism Fund would be funded from disposal of property seized from terrorists as well as fines imposed on those convicted.
A group of MPs has vowed to reject the proposed law once it is taken to Parliament, but a section of Muslim religious leaders and professionals yesterday supported the proposed law and called for some amendments.
The MPs claim that the Bill is sponsored by western governments. The latest developments come as the American embassy in Nairobi issued a warning of an imminent terrorist attack in Mombasa. (READ: US embassy pulls staff out of Mombasa)
As a result, security has been beefed up at key installations in the town.
Head of Public Service Mr Francis Kimemia termed the warning as “a betrayal of trust” after the two governments had earlier agreed that there no alerts would be issued.
Mr Kimemia said Kenya will send an official protest to the US government. He also confirmed that Kenya has joined hands with international security forces.
“It is true we have requested the assistance of Interpol and other foreign police experts in tracing terror suspects since it is an international crime with a wide network.”
According to the new law, the maximum penalty of life imprisonment would be meted out to anyone convicted of causing death of a person by engaging in a terrorist activity.
Those convicted of sheltering suspects, offering training premises, fund-raising, recruiting youths into terror groups, offering military training to recruits, providing money and weapons as well as helping suspects hide from the police, would be jailed for between seven and 20 years.
Last year, the United Nations Security Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea reported that two MPs had contributed money for mosques and youth projects in Kenya, but the funds ended up with Al-Shabaab, the Somalia-based terrorist group.
Speaking in Nairobi yesterday, Association of Muslim Organisations in Kenya (Amok) said the Bill was meant to protect Kenyans against terror threats.
The organisation’s chairman, Sheikh Athman Mponda, said: “We’ve lost many young men who have been recruited (into Al-Shabaab) and taken to Somalia. I know of nine young men who have been killed in Somalia.”
Amok director-general Fazul Mohamed said they would continue holding meetings in mosques and schools to educate Muslims to support the law. They are uncomfortable with the clause that empowers the police to bug telephone lines.
Section 30 of the draft law reads in part: “A police officer of rank of Chief Inspector may for the purpose of obtaining evidence apply ex-parte to the High Court for an interception of communication order.”
Besides, the Bill further requires phone companies to intercept communications in the course of investigations. Banks and financial institutions would also have a crucial role in the war against terrorism.
Every three months, they would be required to report to the Central Bank, giving details of transactions involving accounts and properties owned by groups or suspects flagged by the government.
Another section of the Bill criminalises surveillance with the intention of carrying out terror attacks. For instance, those caught filming buildings and other likely terrorist targets face a maximum of 20 years behind bars.
The Bill, prepared by the Internal Security ministry, also seeks to amend the Extradition Act to include terrorism and piracy offences.
Meanwhile, security has been beefed up in Mombasa following the US embassy alert. A spot check by the Nation at different places in the coastal town revealed heightened security.
At the Moi International Airport in Mombasa, all vehicles had to undergo thorough checks, with drivers instructed to remove all luggage.
At the same time, police in Mombasa are questioning two Nigerians on how they entered into the country without valid documentation. They were arrested in Likoni on Saturday.
Additional reporting by Daniel Nyassy and Antony Kitimo