Two Iranians suspected of plotting to make bombs for attacks in Kenyan cities denied the charges against them at the first day of their trial in Nairobi on Monday.
At least 32 people have been killed in a series of attacks in the capital, the port city of Mombasa, and the northern town of Garissa since Kenyan troops invaded Somalia last October. Their mission was to crush al-Shabaab insurgents blamed for a surge in violence and kidnappings.
Ahmad Mohammed and Sayed Mousavi were charged at the Nairobi High Court with being in possession of 15 kg (33 pounds) of explosives, preparing to commit a felony, and intent to commit grievous harm. They both pleaded not guilty.
Anti-Terrorism Police Unit Officer Kennedy Musyoki told Judge Paul Biwott the two were arrested in Nairobi last month while on their way to the airport.
A container had been impounded earlier that day in Mombasa which had originated from Iraq and was believed to be carrying explosives.
The two have been freed on a bail of 2 million shillings each and ordered to hand their passports to the court. They could face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment if found guilty.
A few days after their arrest, Kenya said it was cancelling a deal to import four million tonnes of Iranian crude oil per year because of international sanctions against Iran.
While the decision had more to do with pressure on Kenya to back international sanctions imposed on Iran over its disputed nuclear activity, Nairobi would have suffered embarrassment in the wake of the arrests had the deal gone through.