January 18, 2010 / 1:49 PM / 10 years ago

Kenya says Muslim cleric to be deported in two days

NAIROBI (Reuters) - A Muslim cleric whose detention in Nairobi caused deadly riots on the streets of the capital is expected to be put on a plane back to Jamaica in the next two days, Kenya’s foreign minister said on Monday.

Initial efforts to deport Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal to his native Jamaica had been hampered by other nations’ unwillingness to let him transit through their airports.

“We have managed to get a direct flight for Faisal back to Jamaica and he should be out of Kenya by 48 hours,” Moses Wetangula told reporters, adding they had won the co-operation of two foreign countries, which he declined to name.

Police earlier arrested a prominent activist, Al-Amin Kimathi, chairman of Kenya’s Muslim Human Right Forum, in chaotic scenes as seven suspects appeared at Nairobi’s High Court accused of involvement in the riots that rocked the capital on Friday.

Another 150 suspects, including some members of the Somali parliament, were charged in another court with being in the country illegally, a day after security forces raided a mainly Somali suburb of the city and arrested scores of people.

“What has happened to Al-Amin today is an attack on the rule of law and an attack on the judiciary,” Mbugua Mureithi, Kimathi’s lawyer, told Reuters as the white-robed activist left the High Court in handcuffs, his arms raised above his head.

Earlier, the seven suspects had been charged with unlawful protest, theft and destruction of property.

Civil unrest in Kenya is particularly worrying following post-election violence in 2008 that killed some 1,300 people. Given the regional threat from Somali al Shabaab extremists seen as a proxy for al Qaeda, it is even more concerning for a nation that has in the past been hit by two al Qaeda-linked attacks.

Friday’s demonstration against the deportation of Faisal was organized by Kenyan Muslims, but many of the marchers who fought pitched battles with the security forces in the city center for more than eight hours were Somalis.

KENYA BLAMES EXTREMISTS

Outside the High Court on Monday, one mother wailed for her sick 18-year-old son, who was detained in the predominantly Somali suburb of Eastleigh on Sunday.

“My son was waiting to be operated on, but he was arrested yesterday on suspicion that he is a Somali illegal immigrant,” the woman, Fatuma Ali, sobbed to reporters.

At Friday’s protest, some demonstrators carried black flags identified with Somalia’s hard-line Islamist rebel group al Shabaab and there were reports of mobs attacking Somalis.

The Kenyan government quickly put the blame for the violence that killed at least one person on extremist youths exposed to “foreign elements” and assured Muslims in Kenya their religious freedom and civil liberties would be respected.

Some Somalis in Kenya fear they will all be tarred with the same brush, despite their warnings that rebel sympathizers and hard-line clerics were a growing cause for concern in Kenya.

Parents in Eastleigh have worried for some time that religious schools funded by Somali rebel groups have been recruiting and luring youths to Somalia.

Madrassa (Islamic) schools and a radical 24-hour cable channel in Kenya have become new breeding and indoctrination grounds for rebel groups based in Somalia, residents say.

Al Shabaab said on Sunday it was not behind the protest, but praised the marchers for taking up the cause of jailed cleric Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal. The cleric was deported from Britain in 2007 after a jail term for stirring up racial hatred.

Additional reporting by Humphrey Malalo; Editing by Giles Elgood

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