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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Rendition victims to sue Kenyan government

NAIROBI - Eight Kenyans, who were arrested as suspected Somali Islamist fighters and covertly flown to Ethiopia, threatened to sue the government on Monday if the officials they blame for their rendition are not charged.

The eight men were among suspected Islamists detained by Kenyan police early last year when members of a Somali sharia courts group fled into Kenya after being driven from power. Rights activists and Muslim groups accuse the Kenyan authorities of covertly rounding up scores of people who were sent to Mogadishu and Addis Ababa for interrogation. They say they were tortured. The eight returned from Ethiopia last Saturday. On Monday, their lawyers demanded Kenya's Attorney General take action.

"We urge you to direct the police to immediately investigate the identity of the public officials who authorised the arbitrary kidnapping of our clients, with a view to arresting and prosecuting the officials for abuse of office," the lawyers said in a letter. It said the eight had been subjected to mental and physical torture while in Ethiopia, where they had been interrogated and abused by investigators from several nations. "Officers of the Somalia government, Ethiopian military, FBI officers and British officers frequently assaulted them and taunted them that they were Al Qaeda terrorists destined to die at the American naval prison at Guantanamo bay in Cuba."

The lawyers said the eight had been undergoing medical checks in the port city of Mombasa, and that they planned to sue the government if they did not receive a reply from the Attorney General within seven days.

The Kenyan authorities deny sending their citizens abroad.

"Wild and unverifiable charges that the government deported Kenyans to Ethiopia are baseless," a statement from the government spokesman's office said on Monday. "The government has been very clear that it repatriated combatants to Somalia after they, the combatants, said they were not Kenyan," the statement said. Last week, U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said at least 150 men, women and children from more than 18 countries had been rounded up near the Somali border at the start of last year. It said most had been sent home, but that several were missing.

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