In Kenya, two Iranians get life in prison for plotting attacks

In Kenya, two Iranians get life in prison for plotting attacks
A court in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, sentenced Iranian nationals Sayed Mansour Mousavi, left, and Ahmad Abolfathi Mohammad to life in prison. (Dai Kurokawa / European Pressphoto Agency)

NAIROBI, Kenya — A Kenyan court on Monday sentenced two Iranian nationals convicted of plotting attacks against Western targets to life in prison.

Ahmad Abolfathi Mohammad and Sayed Mansour Mousavi were arrested in June 2012 and led officials to a 33-pound stash of the explosive RDX. Officials in Kenya say the two may have been planning attacks on Israeli, American, British or Saudi Arabian interests in Kenya.

Magistrate Kiarie Waweru Kiarie sentenced the two to life in prison for committing acts intended to cause grievous harm. The two were sentenced to additional prison sentences of 15 and 10 years on lesser charges. The sentences will be served simultaneously, Kiarie said.

Kiarie said an expert for the prosecution, who testified that the cache of RDX explosives was capable of bringing down a tall building, influenced his sentencing decision. "I shudder to imagine the amount of life and property that would have been forever destroyed," the magistrate said.

"Even as I hear the accused persons mitigating and crying for mercy, there is yet a louder cry by the blood of the previous victims of terrorist attacks, the orphan, the widow and widower due to such heinous attacks. All are crying for justice," Kiarie said.

Mohammad and Mousavi displayed little outward reaction when the sentences were read. Mohammad smiled before media cameras.

Defense lawyers said they would appeal.

"The decision is outrageous. It's wrong. It's illegal. It's a nullity. The magistrate has totally misconceived the law," said David Kirimi, who represented Mousavi.

Defense lawyer Wandugi Karathe, representing Mohammad, earlier urged the magistrate to give his client a noncustodial sentence, arguing that Mohammad “is remorseful of the circumstances that brought him to the court” and is a sole breadwinner for six children in Iran.

Mohammad's wife, Fatma Rhahimid, said through a translator that both men are innocent and that their trial was heavily influenced by "extrajudicial forces."

Kenyan anti-terror officials said the two Iranians are members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Quds Force, an elite and secretive unit.

Militants in 2002 bombed an Israeli-owned luxury hotel near Mombasa, Kenya, killing 13 people. The militants tried to shoot down an Israeli airliner at the same time. An Al Qaeda operative was linked to those attacks.