Baktash Akasha, Vijygiri Goswami, Gulam Hussein and Ibrahim Akasha during the mention of their Extradition case at the Mombasa Court. (Photo: File/Standard)
Two months after the controversial extradition of Baktash and Ibrahim to face drug charges in the US, their family in Mombasa remains inconsolable.
On January 30 this year, two Kenyan brothers, Baktash and Ibrahim Akasha, an Indian national Vijaygiri Goswami and a Pakistani national Gulam Hussein were taken out of the country. They were to face drug trafficking charges in a New York court.
Once there, they were placed in different facilities awaiting their hearing scheduled for April 27.
Ibrahim and Goswami are now being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Centre in Manhattan. This is the same facility where notorious Mexican drug lord, Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera, popularly known as “El Chapo”, is also confined in a special housing unit.
According to a detailed report by Fox News, the facility – said to have hosted mobsters and former Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s close associates – is highly secured. In the report, a warden who served at the institution for 15 months before retiring in 2014, said there is no other unit in the US Bureau of Prisons like the high security unit.
The facility is said to be protected by steel barricades that can stop a seven-and-a-half tonne truck, and is fitted with cameras that can read a newspaper a block away. The calibre of inmates the facility has held at one time or the other could perhaps explain this level of reinforcement.
It is here, after all, that a daring escape was nearly made in 1982 when an inmate attempted to take off in an helicopter on the rooftop. And another inmate stabbed a guard with a sharpened comb.
On the other hand, Baktash and Hussein are being held at the Metropolitan Detention Centre in New York.
This is the centre that hit headlines in the US three years ago over reports that a federal correctional officer had engaged in a sexual relationship with an inmate and was pregnant with his child. The inmate had been tried and sentenced to death in 2007 for the murder of two New York City detectives.
So far, none of the Akasha family members have visited Baktash or Ibrahim. While their Kenya-based lawyer Cliff Ombeta has said they are scheduled for a court appearance on April 27, there is insistence in some quarters that the actual hearing may not kick off until 2018.
The four suspects are facing charges of conspiring to traffic 98kg of heroin to the US from Kenya, and could be jailed for life, if found guilty.
“None of us has travelled to the US. We do not have money to travel there and that is why we have not been able to hire a lawyer for my sons,” their mother, Fatuma Akasha, said.
Fatuma was speaking at the Mombasa Law Courts where she was awaiting judgement on an application seeking production of the Akasha brothers following their arrest and transfer to the US on January 29. Her comments, however, appear to contradict the brothers’ lawyer who, when contacted by The Standard, said the family had hired US lawyer Daniel Arshak. But this information also differs with other reports that the men’s legal representative has been provided by the US government.
Arshak appeared during the extradition proceedings as an adviser on US law to the defence team and has now been hired to defend all four suspects since Ombeta and other Kenyan lawyers involved in the extradition proceedings cannot practice law in the US.
Ombeta also disclosed the Akashas are allowed telephone contact with their families in Kenya at their own cost although the cellphone belongs to the jail. They are also allowed to send emails but every form of communication they undertake is closely monitored by the prison authorities as is any money they receive from their families. This is kept for them and is only provided when they demonstrate need.
However, after months of incarceration in these high-security prisons, communication between them and their families in Kenya has started thinning out. According to Kamaldin, son of Baktash’s slain step brother also known as Kamaldin Akasha, the communication has lately been reduced to a trickle due to restrictions in the prison.
“When they were first sent to prison, they used to share photographs of their stay and prison conditions but this has stopped. My uncles really miss their families, they ask about their children, wives and mother and are homesick,” he said.
The Standard has also established that the matter is taking a new toll on the extended Akasha family and is threatening to start a new round of clashes.
Reports indicate some members of the extended family are piling pressure on the court to release a title deed for one of the houses used as surety for Ibrahim.
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The family appears to have been jolted by the sudden removal of Baktash, who appears to have taken over control of the family after his father’s sudden murder in Amsterdam.
The murder unleashed a deadly wave of feuds that ended in the unsolved murder of Kamaldin Akasha.
Although peace appeared to have prevailed, fact is that over the past decade, there has been tension between the sons of the late Akasha’s widows.
Tinta Akasha and his brothers and sisters, from one the late Akasha’s widows, have remained estranged from Fatuma’s children and have shown no interest in Baktash’s and Ibrahim’s legal problems.
They have also not attended a single court session since their new troubles started in 2014.