Freed terror suspect fears for his life

Sheikh Guyo Gorsa

Sheikh Guyo Gorsa before a Nairobi court in 2018

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

 Being acquitted of criminal charges by a court would be a great victory for any crime suspect, but not for Marsabit madrasa teacher and cleric Sheikh Guyo Gorsa.

Sheikh Gorsa, who was acquitted of terror charges by a Nairobi court in May, is appealing to the state to protect him as he tries to rebuild his life after staying for four and a half years at the Kamiti Maximum Security Prison.

“I plead with the state to offer me absolute protection now that I’ve been allowed to integrate with society. Indeed, my life has become a roller-coaster of sorts,” he said.

“I’m drained emotionally and trapped in a downward spiral of endless ‘what-ifs’ and worst-case scenarios about what tomorrow may bring.”

Sheikh Gorsa said his life is filled with fear, uncertainty and worries about the future, leaving him always feeling “stressed, anxious, and powerless” over the direction of his life.

He was ejected from prison against his wish, even after he asked a court to allow him to continue being incarcerated instead of going back to his family.

Sheikh Gorsa’s application to continue living at the prison was denied by the court, forcing him to return home.

He spoke to the Nation at his home in Marsabit town, describing how his life had changed after his prison stay. Being in prison from 2018 was a huge setback for him and his family because resources that would have aided them to advance in life were spent on lawyers and other expenses related to his case.

Sheikh Gorsa had left behind a young wife with two children – a three-year-old and a six-month-old – who had to depend on well-wishers.

The first-born, who is autistic, did not attend school for the four years his father was in prison.

Sheikh Gorsa said he was the pillar of his family – having lost both parents – and his two sisters and four brothers looked to him for every important decision.

He does not understand why he was charged in connection with financing terrorist activities yet he lived a life of squalor.

Sheikh Gorsa denied owning a bank account, adding that he was paid only Sh10,000 as a cleric and madrasa teacher.

His sister, Hawo Gorsa, tearfully narrated how she had been left with the burden of taking over her brother’s responsibilities in his absence.

His long-time neighbour, Mzee Orre Moke, said he had known Sheikh Gorsa since he was a child and that he was a polite and straightforward person. He did not understand why such serious charges were brought against him, he said, while Sheikh Gorsa’s closest friend, Nassir Ali, appealed to the state to protect the cleric.

Mr Ali said the community was willing to work with the state to provide any information it needed and to ensure Sheikh Gorsa was protected and given the freedom to go about his daily tasks without fear.

He heaped praise on the cleric, saying his determination to transform the lives of young people had immensely impacted many who would have been lost to drug abuse in Marsabit town.

“We ask the government to offer protection to Gorsa and we will do anything to collaborate with security agencies to ensure his life is secured. This is one person who has immensely impacted the lives of youths,” Mr Ali said.

Sheikh Gorsa was arrested in 2018 and charged with possession of materials that promoted a terrorist group, and for collaborating with Somalia-based al-Shabaab militants.

His arrest sparked protests and violence by young people in Marsabit town.

In May, Sheikh Gorsa grabbed the headlines when he refused to leave prison, stating through his lawyer John Khaminwa that he feared for his life if he was freed.

He said he would only be secure if his incarceration was extended, arguing that he knew of people suspected of engaging in terrorism who were executed or disappeared immediately after being acquitted.

In June, prison authorities ordered Sheikh Gorsa to go home because they had no orders or communication regarding his application to continue staying in prison.