MOMBASA // One of the men accused of hacking a British soldier to death in London last week was freed from arrest in Kenya three years ago on the recommendation of the British High Commission, a Kenyan lawyer who represented him in 2010 said yesterday.
British authorities are increasingly facing questions about what they knew about the activities of the two Britons, who are of Nigerian descent, suspected of butchering Lee Rigby, a 25-year-old veteran of the Afghan war, in broad daylight in a London street.
The men have said they killed Rigby in the name of Islam. One of them, Michael Adebolajo, was arrested in Kenya in 2010 for allegedly trying to join a group of Islamist militants.
The murder has provoked an anti-Muslim backlash in multi-racial Britain.
Wycliffe Makasembo, the lawyer who represented Adebolajo at the time of his 2010 arrest in the tourist town of Lamu, said that Kenyan anti-terrorism police had detained his client and six other people when they tried to travel north to Somalia in a speedboat.
They were suspected of attempting to train with the Al Qaeda-linked Islamist militant group Al Shabab in Somalia. They appeared in a court in Mombasa, south of Lamu.
Mr Makasembo said Kenyan police at the time asked the British High Commission in Nairobi for more information about Adebolajo, a 28-year-old British-born Muslim convert from a Christian Nigerian family.
He said the British diplomatic mission replied in a letter to the police that "gave a clean bill of health that Michael Adebolajo had no criminal record or any connection with any criminal or terrorist organisation in the world".
"Our own intelligence in Kenya were reluctant to release him, but it is the British High Commission which recommended that the suspect be released," Mr Makasembo said, adding he saw the letter at the time of the court appearance.
Adebolajo was deported back to Britain. The other six, all Kenyans, were also released without charge.
A spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London yesterday declined to comment on the lawyer's specific remarks.
"We can confirm that a British national was arrested in Kenya in 2010 and the FCO provided consular assistance as normal for British nationals," he said.
Police shot and wounded Rigby's attackers at the scene of the crime in London.
Sources close to the investigation have said the men were known to Britain's MI5 internal security service.
Adebolajo had handed out radical-Islamist pamphlets, but neither man was considered a serious threat, sources said.
That has intensified calls for Britain's spy agencies to explain what they knew about the suspects and whether they could have done more to prevent the killing.
Britain's ITV News reported that Adebalajo and his family had been approached by the security services MI5 and MI6, who tried to recruit him as an informant.
It quoted his brother in law, James Thompson, as saying Adebolajo changed dramatically after his detention in Kenya where he said he was tortured and felt abandoned by his government.
Mr Makasembo said Kenya was "not to blame" for the London killing.
"It is the British themselves who defended him from our law enforcers," he said. "Had he been charged here, the killing of the British soldier would never have occurred."
Police have arrested 10 people in connection with the murder.
The second man shot and arrested at the scene of the crime, Michael Adebowale, 22, appeared in handcuffs at a London court yesterday charged with Rigby's murder.