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Kenyan court releases man jailed for 20 years for ivory smuggling

Judge Dorah Chepkwony said the sentence imposed on Mohamed Feisal, who was also fined 20 million shillings, was harsh as the minimum punishment set out by Kenyan law was a one-year jail term and 1 million shilling fine.

Ivory Kingpin Feisal Mohamed Ali follows is pictured during his successful 20 year sentence appeal at a Mombasa Court on 3 August 2018. Picture: AFP

MOMBASA - A court in Kenya’s port city of Mombasa on Friday set free a man convicted by a lower court in July 2016 of smuggling ivory and jailed for 20 years.

Judge Dorah Chepkwony said the sentence imposed on Mohamed Feisal, who was also fined 20 million shillings, was harsh as the minimum punishment set out by Kenyan law was a one-year jail term and 1 million shilling fine.

“At the time of his sentencing, the accused had already been in custody for two years, and had served his term,” Chepkwony said, adding that evidence presented during his trial had not directly linked Feisal to the seized ivory.

The ruling could potentially undermine efforts by Kenya and its neighbours to curb rampant poaching that threatens their lucrative tourism sectors.

Feisal, who was arrested in Tanzania in December 2014 after a consignment of ivory was seized at his warehouses in Mombasa, had appealed against his sentence. Prosecutors said at the time that the 314 pieces of ivory weighing over 2 tonnes had an estimated value of $438,902.74.

In a statement, the Kenyan government’s Kenya Wildlife Service said it was “shocked” by the acquittal and that it would work with the East African country’s public prosecutor to appeal the ruling.