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‘I demand justice for my 72-day jail ordeal’, says Dubai mother mistaken for terrorist

DUBAI // A woman who claimed she was tortured and threatened with rape after being mistaken for an Al Qaeda terrorist faces months of uncertainty awaiting the outcome of a legal case against the Kenyan government.

Mother of three Kamilya Mohammedi Tuweni, 50, relived her 72-day ordeal this week as she gave testimony via video link from London to the high court in Nairobi.

She was too scared to return to Kenya in person.

The former Etisalat worker was on a business trip to Kenya in 2007, working as a translator for two men who were hoping to open up a coffee business in Oman, when anti-terror forces seized her in her hotel room near Mombassa.

Ms Tuweni was arrested during an operation against Somali suspects on January 9 that year.

She was handed over to authorities in Somalia and Ethiopia for interrogation, where she said she faced the constant threat of torture.

The allegations have been denied by Kenyan police.

After her release, no apology or explanation was given for her detention.

On returning to the UAE, Ms Tuweni reported her experiences to Dubai Police.

Since her detention, she has suffered post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and has been unable to work. She also suffered a stroke and lost mobility in the left side of her body.

She opened proceedings against the Kenyan government in 2009 and is hoping for an apology and financial compensation, but the case is unlikely to be resolved until the end of the year.

Ms Tuweni, who is originally from Tanzania but now holds a UAE passport after moving to Dubai in 1979, said: “It was not easy to give my evidence and go over what happened, but I did what I had to do.

“When I first returned to Dubai, my brother had been looking for me and he showed me the papers from the Kenyan people, when they had transferred me to Somalia. It was then I realised it was a mistaken identity.

“I’ve had no apology. I lost hope and thought I would never get my justice.”

During her time in prison, her three children were left with their grandmother. The girls were 23, 21 and 11 and not working at the time so they struggled to pay the rent on their home in Dubai.

Ms Tuweni is divorced from their father.

Her testimony included details about the alleged beatings she endured, the bribes she said she was asked for by security officials in exchange for her freedom, allegations of threats of rape and of how she narrowly escaped being sold for drugs.

Ms Tuweni said she was held in a heavily damaged Somalian jail as anti-terrorist air strikes battered the area.

“It has not been easy to get on with my life,” she said. “My children had been left on their own. So much damage was done.”

According to an affidavit by Kenya’s Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU), there are no records of Ms Tuweni being taken into custody.

In 2013, a separate case brought by 11 others who were handed over to Somalia during anti-terrorist operations in 2007, nine of them Kenyan, it was found that Kenyan authorities were at fault for their unlawful detentions and ill-treatment of those arrested.

Kenya’s high court constitutional and judicial review board ruled that the fight against terrorism was not a sufficient reason to ignore the rule of law.

Kevin Laue, a legal adviser with Redress, the international human rights campaign group that is helping Ms Tuweni to fight her case, said: “We hope the case will be finished by the end of the year.

“We have a lawyer in Nairobi who has asked for exemplary damages. Kamilya was very badly treated and deserves a good amount.

“The financial part of her case is only a part; she wants to hold the government in Kenya to account and get an apology.

“Kenya needs to realise what the implications are of doing this kind of thing to people. They can’t just do this and get away with it.

“We have been involved in many cases around the world like this. It is a concern.”

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(via The National)