Kenya Westgate mall attack trial hit by assault claims

Kenya Westgate mall attack trial hit by assault claims

NAIROBI - The trial of four men charged in connection with Kenya's Westgate mall massacre was hit Tuesday by allegations from defence lawyers that the suspects have been assaulted in detention.

The complaints came as the slow-moving trial was again adjourned, with the magistrate out of the country attending a seminar.

Defence lawyers said the suspects were in bad shape following claims that they were assaulted while in detention.

"There are several theories. The prison authorities say the suspects were wounded as prison officers tried to quell a riot, but the suspects claim they were attacked by the prison guards," Mwaniki Gachomo, one of the defence lawyers, told AFP.

"The suspects were in the court cells today with bandaged limbs, and there's an order to have them transferred to hospital for treatment," said Gachomo.

An official from the state-funded Kenya National Commission on Human Rights confirmed that a probe into the matter has been carried out and a report would be released soon.

The trial in Nairobi opened in January and has heard evidence from people who were at the mall when the gunmen from Somalia's Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab launched their attack in September 2013, killing at least 67 people.

Court officials said a new date for the resumption of the trial would be set early next month.

The suspects - Hussein Hassan Mustafa, Mohammed Ahmed Abdi, Liban Abdullah Omar and Adan Mohammed Abdikadir - are not accused of carrying out the attack, but of providing support to the terrorists.

More than 35 witnesses have so far appeared at the trial, with at least 10 more expected to give evidence.

Shebab said the attack was a warning to Kenya to pull its troops out of southern Somalia, where they are fighting the extremists as part of an African Union force.

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