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We had no evidence when freezing MUHURI accounts over terror links, CBK tells Court

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[MUHURI lawyer James Orengo. Photo/Davis Mbunga]

The Central Bank of Kenya has told the court it had no intelligence reports linking NGOs and individuals to terrorism before freezing their accounts in 2015.

April that year,  the government in a gazette notice said it had intelligence reports linking over 70 individuals and entities including Muslims for Human Rights-MUHURI to terrorist group Al-Shabaab. Financial Reporting Center forwarded to CBK names of groups it suspected to be associated with Al-Shabaab. The Centre called for “appropriate action” against them.

CBK then issued a circular based on the unseen intelligence report to commercial banks that froze the accounts of organisations and individuals in the list.

MUHURI sued and its accounts were unfrozen on November 2015. The NGO is now at Mombasa High Court seeking general and punitive damages.

CBK Assistant director of funds supervision Matu Mugo who is defense witness, was cross-examined by MUHURI lawyer James Orengo.

Mugo said he and other three CBK staff made recommendations that saw the accounts frozen.

Orengo noted CBK’s action was in violation of the law. He said only a Cabinet Secretary is mandated to freeze account. The court heard there was no such order from the CS.

CBK also admitted it did not inform MUHURI of its intended action as required in the Crime and Money Laundering Act.

Orengo noted the United Nation Security Council resolutions the State relied on to freeze accounts were related to “earth shaking international occurrences”. He said the impact of such resolutions was a life imprisonment.

The government cited resolutions 1373 of 2001 and 1267 of 1999 before freezing the accounts.

The former resolution came after the 9/11 attack in the United States where over 3,000 people died. The latter followed an Afghanistan situation where the UN Security Council designated Osama bin Laden and associates as terrorists. The Council established a sanction regime to cover individuals and entities associated with Al-Qaida, Osama or the Taliban wherever located.

Orengo said a grave injury was inflicted after MUHURI was branded an Al-Shabaab sympathizer, an extremist group associated with these earth shaking events.

MUHURI board member Maina Kiai also testified. He is the United Nation’s special rapporteur with global mandate of promoting and protecting right of association and assembly.

Kiai He said he suffered injuries after the government’s action. He said people doubted his character and commitment to human rights.

Kiai said he couldn’t send money to his daughter in US.

“I experienced stigma and financial embarrassment,” he told the court.

Orengo said despite the government’s claim, none of MUHURI staff has been charged.

Hearing continues on February 8, 2019.