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Home People Blogger Robert Alai arrested under the new controversial anti-terrorism law

Blogger Robert Alai arrested under the new controversial anti-terrorism law

by Feritter Owich
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Robert Alai, a Kenyan blogger, internet entrepreneur and cyberactivist is set to remain in Kenyan police custody for 14 days for sharing gory photos of slain AP officers on his social media pages.

Alai, who runs a Kenyan gossip blog Kahawatungu.com and his social media crisis communication consultancy firm TechMtaa was arrested Tuesday by DCI officers a day after he allegedly posted the photos.

Alai whose Twitter handle has over 1.2m followers and whose Facebook page has over 383000 fans, allegedly received the photos from Kenya Prisons officer Patrick Robert Safari and shared them with his audience against Kenya’s anti terrorism laws.

Another Kenyan Police Officer, Mr. Wifred Kipkemei Maiyo, who is attached to Kahawa West AP Post was also arrested for sharing police operations and information with Alai. According to the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU), investigations into the WhatsApp and Facebook accounts of Maiyo reveal that he has been constantly sharing police details with the blogger.

The three were arrested by the anti-terror police for being sympathisers of Somalia-based Al-Shabaab terror group. Police indicate that social media post of photos of officers who were killed in the June 15 terror attack in Wajir appear on both the Bloggers and Al-Shabaab’s twitter accounts. Having the same content, however, is not proof that Alai is linked to the terrorist group because anyone could have shared the photos first anyway. Then everyone else could share them with their fans. Alai’s handle’s are for breaking news and social activism and that’s what Twitter is for.

On the contrary, Kenya Police argue that that was not the right way to convey the message to the families of the fallen police officers. The three will remain in custody pending investigations into the case to determine any connections to terror groups.

The court had at first granted a 30 day detainment which was termed unduly long, but later granted the duration of 14 days to allow the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU) complete their investigations.

Alai has earned notoriety for his relentless stream of social media rants that at times entertains his followers or embarrasses public officials and the government in equal measure. In the past, he has been sued and briefly incarcerated for his highly opinionated political and at times personal attacks on politicians, government officials and business leaders.

On Wednesday, June 19th, police told the court that the photos Mr Alai posted on Twitter were taken by Al-Shabaab at the scene of the attack and sent to the duo. By sharing the photos, Blogger Robert Alai and prison officer Patrick Robert Safari are being accused of being sympathisers of Somalia-based Al-Shabaab terror group by anti-terror police.

Prevention of Terrorism Act – Kenya Law

Robert Alai may be first blogger charged under the new controversial anti-terrorism law that targets publishers of information, including media houses, publications, journalists and bloggers.

Section 27. Incitement

A person who publishes, distributes or otherwise avails information intending to directly or indirectly incite another person or a group of persons to carry out a terrorist act commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding thirty years.

Section 19. Disclosure of information

A person who, knowing or having reasonable cause to suspect that an officer is conducting an investigation under this Act—

(a)discloses to another person anything which is likely to prejudice the investigation; or
(b)interferes with material which is relevant to the investigation, commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding twenty years.

Robert Alai is not new to controversy and the court corridors, although this time round it is not clear which sections of the law the prosecution will rely on to prove their case.

Alai will have to put a spirited legal fight to prove otherwise because he has been a victim of unlawful arrests before on issues such as improper use of licensed computer systems and incitement to violence.

Putting into consideration that this time the blogger highlighted the improper handling of dead police officers whose vehicle run over an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) on Saturday.

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