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Kenya10 October 2008

Ex-journalist finally freed on bail

Reporters Without Borders is relieved to learn that former journalist Andrew Mwangura, the Seafarers Assistance Programme’s representative in Kenya, was finally released on bail yesterday in Mombasa after being held for nine days.

Mwangura said he was “happy” with the court’s decision and was ready to go back to work and to continue trying to combat piracy in the region. He was arrested on 1 October on a charge of spreading false information for contradicting the Kenyan’s government version about the destination of a military cargo on a ship seized by Somali pirates.

08.10 - Unable to pay bail, ex-journalist still held in Mombasa

Former journalist Andrew Mwangura, the Seafarers Assistance Programme’s representative in Kenya, was transferred yesterday to Mombasa’s Shimo La Tewa prison although a court had ordered his release on bail. His family was unable to raise the bail amount - 200,000 shillings (2,000 euros) - set by the court.

Several international media and Reporters Without Borders yesterday wrongly reported that Mwangura had actually been released on the basis of a report to this effect on Kenya Television Network, a privately-owned TV station.

07.10 - Ex-journalist freed on bail in Mombasa

A court in the southeastern city of Mombasa today ordered the release of former journalist Andrew Mwangura, the East Africa coordinator of the Seafarers Assistance Programme, on bail of 200,000 shillings (2,000 euros).

Mwangura, who spent six days in Mombasa police headquarters, still faces trial on a charge of spreading false information for contradicting the official version put out by the Kenyan’s government about the destination of a military cargo on a ship that was seized by Somali pirates. The trial is due to be held in a month.

The BBC’s website meanwhile today posted details of contracts showing that the arms consignment was bound for South Sudan and indicating that the Kenyan government acted as intermediary.

06.10 - Seafarers’ organisation head arrested for "false statements" on arms shipment destination

Reporters Without Borders called for the release of ex-journalist Andrew Mwangura, head of the Kenyan chapter of the Seafarers Assistance Programme, who was arrested by Kenyan police on 1 October for “making false statements”.

Mwangura contradicted the official version put out by the Kenyan government about the destination of Ukrainian cargo ship, the Faina, laden with weapons, that was seized by pirates off the Somali coast on 25 September on its way to the Kenyan port of Mombasa.

Mwangura was arrested as he left the offices of the Standard newspaper in Mombasa and taken to the police station, where he is still being detained. He is due to appear before a judge on 7 October.

“Detaining Andrew Mwangura is completely unjustified. This dangerous precedent set by the Kenyan authorities is surprising. It sends a very negative signal to those with information contradicting the government”, the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

“Moreover the detention of Andrew Mwangura only increases the doubts about the destination of the Faina, even more so since his statements are based on serious information shared by several sources close to the case.”

Since the ship was seized by pirates, there has been a continuing argument about the destination of the arms. The Ukrainian and Kenyan governments say the weapons were intended for Kenya. But Mwangura has made several statements to the press that they are in fact destined for South Sudan. He has said he has seen documents suggesting that Kenya is not the final recipien.

Several similar statements have been made to back up this claim, including that of Nathan Christensen, spokesman for the US Fifth Fleet in Bahrain.

The Faina is currently anchored off the port of Hobyo, about 500 kilometres north of the capital Mogadishu, surrounded by US warships. It is carrying around 30 Soviet-made assault tanks, rocket launchers and anti-aircraft batteries and around 14,000 munitions.

Mwangura received a prize in 2006 from the Chamber of International Commerce - commercial crime services, for his work in defence of sailors and particularly against murder and piracy in east Africa. He has helped obtain the release of several sailors taken hostage.

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