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Ex-journalist facing charges for "spreading false information", detained for six days

(RSF/IFEX) - Andrew Mwangura, an ex-journalist and East Africa coordinator of the Seafarers Assistance Programme (SAP), is facing charges for "spreading false information" after he contradicted the official version put out by the Kenyan government about the destination of Ukrainian cargo ship, the "Faina", seized by pirates off the Somali coast on 25 September 2008 as it was heading for the Kenyan port of Mombasa.

Mwangura was arrested by Kenyan police as he left the offices of "The Standard" newspaper in Mombasa on 1 October. He was taken to the police station, where he was detained for 6 days before a Mombasa court ordered his release on bail of 200,000 shillings (2,000 euros). Mwangura still faces trial on a charge of "spreading false information" The trial is due to be held in a month.

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

The "Faina" was carrying 30 Soviet-made assault tanks, rocket launchers and anti-aircraft batteries, along with about 14,000 munitions.

Since the ship was seized by pirates, there has been an on-going debate about the destination of the arms. The Ukrainian and Kenyan governments say the weapons were intended for Kenya. But Mwangura claims that they were in fact destined for south Sudan. He says he has seen documents proving his claim.

Mwangura also said that four Ukrainian cargo ships, also loaded with weapons, have already transited through the port of Mombasa in the last year.

Several different statements have been made to back up this claim, including that of Nathan Christensen, spokesman for the US Fifth Fleet in Bahrain. Meanwhile, on 7 October, the BBC website posted details of contracts showing that the arms consignment was bound for south Sudan and indicating that the Kenyan government had acted as an intermediary.

The "Faina" is currently anchored off the port of Hobyo, about 500 kilometres north of the capital Mogadishu, surrounded by US warships.

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