In Kenya, 2 Iranians get life in prison on terror-related charges

Iranian nationals Sayed Mansour Mousavi (L) and Ahmad Abolfathi Mohammed in court during their trial in Nairobi, Kenya on May 6, 2013.
Simon Maina

NAIROBI, Kenya — Two Iranian nationals were sentenced Monday by a Kenyan court to life in prison on terror-related charges, including the possession of explosives.

The two men — Sayed Mousavi and Ahmad Mohammed — pled not guilty to allegedly plotting attacks in Nairobi and other cities in 2012.

"I shudder to imagine the amount of damage that could have been seen," judge Kiarie Waweru Kiarie said in the Nairobi court.

In June last year, Mohammed and Mousavi were arrested and charged with possession of 33 pounds of RDX, a powerful explosive that "is considered the most powerful and brisant of the military high explosives."

The courts say Mohammed and Mousavi are guilty of planning attacks, but prosecutors have not revealed what their supposed targets were.

Some speculate the targets must be Israeli in particular or Western in general — according to one newspaper report the two men were seen driving past the British embassy and a Jewish synagogue before their arrest.

Iran's ambassador to Kenya, Malik Hussein Givzad, said the embassy would do what it could to assist Mohammed, Mousavi and their families in the appeal process.

"As an embassy, what we can do is to assist the families of the convicted to seek redress at the High Court, if the lawyers feel that there was no concrete evidence," Givzad said. "Iran has cordial business relations with Kenya. This was a judicial process, which we respect," he added.

Defense lawyers claim (and the prosecution denies) that Israeli security officers interrogated Mohammed and Mousavi while in detention.

Kenya has suffered a number of bombing attacks in recent years, and though details remain murky in this particular case, some suspect Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabaab rebels from neighboring Somalia. In 2011, Kenya sent troops to Somalia to support a UN-backed intervention against the militants.