Mombasa - A Kenyan court on Thursday gave prosecutors an additional month to conclude their investigation into a regional governor accused of links to a spate of massacres.
Governor Issa Timamy of the coastal Lamu county was arrested in connection with last month's killings in the town of Mpeketoni and nearby villages, which were claimed by Somalia's al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab militia but blamed by the government on local political networks.
The governor, who has fiercely denied any connection to the massacre of close to 50 people, is currently on bail after the state failed in a bid to hold him without charge.
The state had asked for two months to complete the probe before pressing charges, a request the judge rejected.
Tense political rivalry
"Two months is unnecessary. One month is reasonable and fair for the prosecution to complete its investigation," Justice Martin Muya told a hearing in the port city of Mombasa.
The accusations have stoked already tense political rivalry between the ruling and opposition parties, as Timamy is a member of the opposition United Democratic Forum (UDF) party.
Speaking in court, the governor repeated his accusation that the case against him was political.
"I am a sitting governor, what interest would drive me to kill the same people who voted me in?" he asked.
"This case is part of many hurdles that I had faced since my election. When this unfortunate incident happened, they use it as an opportunity to nail me. God is on my side," he said.
Police have also arrested alleged separatists from the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC), a group that campaigns for independence for the coastal region.
Survivors of the attack in Mpeketoni reported gunmen speaking Somali and carrying Shabaab flags had executed non-Muslims, saying their actions were revenge for Kenya's military presence in Somalia as part of the African Union force intervention against the Islamists.
The attackers appeared to target Mpeketoni because the town is a mainly Christian settlement in the Muslim-majority coastal region, having been settled decades ago by the Kikuyu people, the same tribe as Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.