Court says Abubaker Sharif Ahmed urged burning of churches and incited protests that left four dead.
A Kenyan cleric who the UN has accused of urging the killing of US citizens has been charged in court with inciting violent protests that left four people dead last week in Kenya’s second-largest city.
Abubaker Sharif Ahmed appeared before the court on Monday in the port city of Mombasa after an arrest warrant was issued. He denied the charges.
Sharif is also accused of supporting al-Qaeda-linked militants.
Violent protests erupted in Mombasa last week following the assassination of Sheikh Aboud Rogo Mohammed, a close friend of Ahmed’s.
Abubaker Sharif allegedly urged protesters to burn down churches and kill police officers in Kenya’s second-largest city during riots that killed five people, including three police.
The violence followed the assassination of another Muslim cleric, Aboud Rogo, also accused by the United States of supporting al-Shabab – the armed group that Kenya’s military have been battling since invading Somalia last year.
Sharif turned himself in at a court in Mombasa on Monday after an arrest warrant was issued against him last week.
He said his life was in danger in the wake of the rioting.
“He, without lawful excuse uttered words that all sheikhs associated with the government, and who are government agents (should) be slaughtered,” the chargesheet read.
The cleric, who was accompanied by his lawyer and a group of activists, pleaded not guilty to the charges and was remanded in police custody until Wednesday.
Rogo, who had been facing charges of possessing weapons, was shot in his car by unknown attackers last Monday.
His supporters fought running street battles with security forces in the hours after his death, and sporadic violence continued over the following days. Churches were torched and two grenades were thrown at police vehicles.
The government said the violence was organised by Kenya’s ‘enemies’ and blamed Muslim radicals – including the slain cleric – for supporting al-Shabab.
The violence stoked fears that the unrest could become more sectarian in the city, a tourist hub and major Indian Ocean port, where grenade attacks blamed on Somali fighters and their sympathisers have already strained Muslim-Christian relations.
Sharif had previously been arrested in December after a grenade attack on a bus in Nairobi killed one person.
He, like Rogo, had been out on bail. The two are on a US sanctions list for allegedly supporting al-Shabab.
Both men are under a travel ban and asset freeze by the UN Security Council and the United States for supporting al-Shabab.