MOMBASA (Reuters) - A Kenyan governor was cleared on Wednesday of involvement in attacks that killed 65 people in his area, part of a surge of violence along the coast this summer.
A court threw out a case against Issa Timamy, from tourist hotspot Lamu, saying there was no evidence linking him to the worst bloodshed since Somali al Shabaab rebels killed 67 people in a raid on a Nairobi shopping mall last year.
Timamy was arrested after gunmen attacked a town and nearby villages in the Mpeketoni area in June, torching hotels and forcing locals to flee.
President Uhuru Kenyatta initially blamed the violence on local political networks rather than al Shabaab which claimed responsibility. He later amended those comments, saying al Shabaab was involved and assisted by locals.
Prosecutors had said they intended to charge Timamy with murder, forceful transfer of populations and terrorism-related offences.
“The prosecution has not provided any evidence to demonstrate the weight of the charges they said they intended to press against the suspect,” Judge Martin Muya said in his ruling.
Timamy, who was out on bail, met hundreds of his supporters outside the court room and said the truth had set him free.
“I still insist that I had nothing to do with the killings. Why would I kill my own people?” he said as the crowd cheered.
Al Shabaab says it is attacking Kenya to punish it for sending troops into Somalia.
Ethnic rivalries have festered for decades in Lamu and neighboring Tana River, where more than 100 people were killed in 2012 and 2013 in fighting over water and grazing land.
Attacks on the coast have hit Kenya’s tourism industry, especially after some Western governments warned against travel to the Indian Ocean resorts.
Editing by Edith Honan and Andrew Heavens