Kenyan Feisal Mohamed Ali, regularly portrayed by the local media as a “baron” of ivory trafficking in the country and sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2016, was acquitted on appeal on Friday.
Judge Dora Chepkwony of the High Court of Mombasa ruled that his trial conviction was “unconstitutional” because it was based on questionable or insufficient evidence.
The prosecution had presented him as the main actor in an organized crime network stretching from African parks to Asian markets, the main destination for smuggled ivory.
“So we believe this is a huge step backwards in our efforts to show how we are stopping wildlife trafficking. Let us not forget that the trafficker of two tons of elephant ivory is still there, now free, among us’‘ said Jim Karani of the Direct Wildlife legal office.
Ali, who has always rejected these charges, was arrested in Tanzania in December 2014 and extradited to Kenya.
He had been wanted there in June 2014, since the discovery of over two tons of ivory worth an estimated $4.2 million in a warehouse in Mombasa, the main port of East Africa on the Kenyan coast.
Ali was handed a 20 year prison sentence in July 2016. The ruling was welcomed by wildlife advocates in a case seen as a test of Kenyan authorities’ willingness to tackle poaching.
About 30,000 elephants are killed annually in Africa for tusks by poachers who are better equipped.