The case of two Iranians who were twice found guilty of plotting terrorist attacks in Kenya before being freed by the Court of Appeal has taken a new twist after the release of an Interpol report.
According to the report, Iranian officials have been attempting to compromise key government employees and the legal system to release Mr Ahmad Abolfathi Mohammad and Mr Sayed Mansour Mousavi who have been in custody since June 2012.
According to an affidavit by police sergeant Erick Opagal, the two Iranians arrived in Nairobi on June 12, 2012.
He added that they then travelled to Mombasa on the same day to receive RDX explosives.
After getting the substances from an accomplice who is still at large, the police sergeant told the court, the pair returned to Nairobi.
Kenya officials say the two are members of Iran Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) or Qods Force, an elite and secretive unit which executes covert foreign missions.
Detectives say the two are some of the most dangerous terrorists to have ever set foot on Kenyan soil.
The Qods Force is the terrorist arm of the IRGC, police add.
Its officers operate covertly to spread Iran’s negative influences far and wide, and they have been responsible for numerous terrorist attacks and attempted attacks globally, according to the Interpol report.
They are highly trained and secretive. According to the affidavit, their activities remain a threat to Kenya.
A security agent said what is puzzling is that the two men are not the typical terrorism suspects.
“They are not young, agile-looking, steely-eyed and assault-rifle totting types. Neither do they look like the types who don suicide vests,” a security official who requested anonymity said.
“On the face of it they look more like businessmen.”
If Mohammad and Mousavi had been successful in their terrorist plot, according to security agencies, Kenyan blood would have been spilt “and with the terrorist thinking of causing maximum harm and damage, one can only estimate how many lives would have been lost”.
An official familiar with the Interpol briefing told the Sunday Nation that an Iranian who was posted as a senior diplomat to Nairobi has been trying all means possible to reach out to Kenyan government and justice officials to secure the release of the two.
Contacted, the Iranian embassy through its spokesman Mwinyi Ramadhan, said the report and the charges against the two are yet another move by the country’s enemies to drag Iran’s name into the terrorism mire.
“Who exactly wants to meddle with the Kenyan criminal justice system? Is it Iran or agents of the dark forces that are pulling the strings?” he asked in response to a Sunday Nation query.
Mr Mohammed and Mr Mousavi were arrested and charged with planning an attack on American, British and Israeli interests in Kenya — accusations Mr Mwinyi dismissively said sound like a “bad Hollywood movie plot”.
Iranian ambassador to Kenya Hadi Farajvand has stated publicly that he is doing his duty to defend fellow countrymen.
In March, MPs Charles Kilonzo (Yatta), Richard Tongi (Nyaribari Chache) and Dido Ali Rasso (Saku) accused the Iranian diplomat of trying to influence the release of two men from custody irregularly.
They said Dr Farajvand’s actions flouted international treaties and the Kenyan Constitution, adding that the envoy should be expelled.
“The worst accusation is that the ambassador is compromising key government and court officials to secure the release of Mohammed and Mousavi,” Mr Kilonzo said.
The Interpol briefing comes as the Supreme Court is still handling the case filed by State prosecutors who are challenging a ruling by the Court of Appeal that set the two Iranians free and ordered their immediate deportation.
The trial has been marked with interesting outcomes.
Five years ago, Chief Magistrate Kiarie Waweru sentenced the two Iranians to life in prison and additional sentences of 15 and 10 years for other less charges.
Mr Waweru was apt in his judgment.
He said the effects of the 1998 American embassy bombing in Nairobi were still fresh in the minds of Kenyans.
“I shudder to imagine the number of Kenyan lives and the amount of property that would have been destroyed,” the magistrate said.
The two Iranians appealed the decision and the High Court did away with the life sentences.
The court instead handed the two a 15-year prison term each.
Still not satisfied with the outcome, they went to the Court of Appeal.
At the appellate court, Justices Kihara Kariuki (currently the Attorney-General), Kathurima M’inoti and Agnes Murgor not only brushed aside the sentences but also ordered their immediate deportation.
The judges said the evidence on which the two Iranians were convicted was largely circumstantial.
The prosecution was unrelenting and in February this year, proceeded to the Supreme Court for the final appeal.
Iran, however, says the pair ought to be freed immediately.
“The two were widely reported to belong to the crack Al-Qods division of the Revolutionary Guards. But their appearance in the Nairobi court showed men who were well over middle age, with slightly dishevelled looks, lacking the killer, athletic physiques that one would expect of elite commandos,” Mr Mwinyi said in a statement.
“What was Iran to gain by attacking Kenya yet the two countries have been enjoying cordial bilateral relations, including a reciprocal exchange of high-powered delegations, not to mention the visit by their respective heads of state?”