NAIROBI - A Kenyan court on Monday set a trial date of July 23 for two Iranians arrested after police seized chemicals they believed the pair would use to make explosives in Mombasa, which has suffered a series of attacks by suspected Islamist militants.
The capital Nairobi and other parts of the country have also been hit by grenade attacks since Kenya sent troops into Somalia last year to crush al Shabaab insurgents it blames for a surge in violence and kidnappings threatening tourism in east Africa's largest economy.
Judge Paul Biwott freed the Iranians, Ahmad Mohammed and Sayed Mousavi, on bail of 2 million shillings ($23,800) each on Monday and ordered police to hand their passports to the court.
“The offence for which the suspects are charged is bailable and I see no reasons to deny them bail. I hereby grant Ahmad Mohammed and Sayed Mousavi cash bail and to report at the Kenyan police twice a week,” Biwott said in his ruling. He did not go into further detail on why bail had been granted.
Police arrested the Iranians in Nairobi last month after a container in Mombasa was impounded earlier in the day. It had originated from Iraq and was believed to be carrying explosives.
The Iranians were charged with being in possession of 15 kg (33 pounds) of explosives and preparing to commit a felony. Both deny the charges.
Kenya's coastal province police chief said at the time of the arrests that authorities were trying to find out whether the explosives were linked to groups like Al Shabaab or Al Qaeda.
At least 32 people have been killed in the grenade blasts in Mombasa, Nairobi and the northern town of Garissa. There have also been grenade and gun attacks in northeast Kenya near the Somali border.
A Mombasa court on Monday charged Thabit Jamaldin Yahya, a Kenyan, with murder over an explosion that killed one person and wounded several at a nightclub in the port city in May.
Kenya has blamed the rash of attacks on Al Shabaab, a Somali rebel group which formally merged with Al Qaeda this year and has declared war on Kenya because of its incursion into Somalia.
A few days after the arrest of the Iranians, Kenya said it was cancelling a deal to import 4 million tonnes of Iranian crude oil per year because of international sanctions against Iran.
While the decision had more to do with pressure on Kenya to back international sanctions imposed on Iran over its disputed nuclear activity, Nairobi would have suffered embarrassment in the wake of the arrests had the deal gone through.