Kenyan court suspends parts of two-week-old security law

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta (L) walks back after inspecting a military parade during a national celebration to mark Kenya's Jamhuri Day (Independence Day) at the Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi December 12, 2014. REUTERS/Noor Khamis

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya's High Court on Friday suspended some of the anti-terrorism measures signed into law two weeks ago by President Uhuru Kenyatta, saying objections raised by the opposition over the laws' constitutionality should be settled by the judiciary.

Kenyatta said when he signed the law on Dec. 19 that it did not go against the bill of rights or any provision of the constitution, but opposition groups have said the measures, which increased the time suspects can be held without charge to 360 days from 90 days, threaten liberties and free speech.

Kenyatta has faced mounting pressure to boost security since Somali al Shabaab rebels killed 67 people in a Nairobi shopping mall in September 2013 and after frequent attacks in 2014. Last month he replaced the interior minister and the police chief.

Issuing his ruling on Friday, High Court Judge George Odunga also criticised the manner in which the law was passed in parliament: opposition legislators threw books at the Speaker, shouted, chanted and sprinkled water over his deputy.

"I grant conservatory orders suspending the following clauses ... pending the hearing and determination of these petitions," Odunga said in his ruling, suspending eight clauses.

The ruling was greeted with cheers and jubilation in the Nairobi courtroom by members of Kenya's opposition coalition, which had filed the legal challenge, and its leader Raila Odinga. They punched the air, chanting "a people united shall never be defeated!"