Kenya: Hate charge MPs out on tough conditions
Posted by African Press International on June 18, 2016
MAUREEN KAKAH -1 | Ijumaa, Juni 17, 2016.
After three days in police custody, eight MPs charged with hate speech were released on bond on Friday evening.
The five Cord MPs and three from the Jubilee coalition broke into song and dance after the magistrate read out the bond terms after a gruelling day-long session in court.
Six of the MPs, Machakos Senator Johnstone Muthama, Timothy Bosire (Kitutu Masaba), Junet Mohammed (Suna East), Kimani Ngunjiri (Bahati), Aisha Jumwa (Kilifi Woman Representative) and her Busia counterpart Florence Mutua were each released on a Sh300,000 cash bail or a Sh1 million bond and a surety of similar amount.
But Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria and his Kabete counterpart Ferdinand Waititu received tougher bond terms with the magistrate noting that they were facing similar charges in other courts.
They were released on a Sh5 million bond and a surety of similar amount or a Sh2 million cash bail in the alternative. Mr Muthama and Mr Mohamed, Mr Bosire, Mr Ngunjiri, Ms Jumwa, Ms Mutua, Mr Kuria and Mr Waititu all faced incitement to violence and hate speech charges.
The eight, who have spent the last three days at the Pangani and Muthaiga police cells, were driven to court before dawn and locked up in the basement cells until 9am when they were marched to the courtroom.
But they nearly missed their freedom when it was realised trial magistrate Daniel Ogembo had freed them outside court working hours meaning they could not pay their cash bails.
Siaya Senator James Orengo pleaded with the magistrate to allow them to deposit the cash bails with the court clerk.
“Your honour, I plead with you that you allow the accused persons to deposit the cash bail with the court clerk and we sort out the paperwork at an appropriate time,” said the Siaya Senator, a plea the magistrate readily granted.
The court then proceeded to process the bail for all the eight MPs who were all freed.
Armed General Service Unit officers formed a ring around the Milimani Law Courts and barred the public from entering the compound, save for court staff, lawyers and journalists.
They also granted access to a few politicians led by Cord leader Raila Odinga and his co-principals Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetang’ula as well as Kisumu Senator Anyang’ Nyong’o.
While Cord politicians spent the day in the courtroom in solidarity with their incarcerated colleagues, no politician from the Jubilee coalition showed up to express sympathy with Mr Kuria, Mr Ngunjiri and Mr Waititu.
For the better part of the court session, which started at 9am and went on up to 5.30pm only interrupted by a three-hour break, the accused followed proceedings from the dock, watching pensively as their lawyers argued their cases.
The lawyers put up a spirited fight to have their clients released on bail arguing that it was their constitutional rights.
Mr Orengo led the defence team for the Cord MPs and argued that the prosecution had not provided any evidence to show that his clients would jump bail if set free.
His arguments were backed by senior counsel Okong’o Omogeni who termed the charges facing the Cord MPs “flimsy”. Lawyer Cliff Ombeta for Mr Ngunjiri also argued that the prosecution was relying on probabilities to continue locking up his client in the cells. He noted that the prosecution had not demonstrated to the court that his client would jump bail if set free.
A similar argument was advanced by Mr Harrison Kinyanjui for Mr Kuria.
Delivering his verdict shortly after 4pm, Mr Ogembo warned the accused persons that even though he was granting them bail, the charges they faced were of extremely serious nature.
“If I had a chance to speak and I am given an opportunity, this is what I would say, that these offences are extremely serious and it should therefore be noted that it is not about any amount of money deposited in this court. It is about our country and how we want this country to be,” he said.
At some point during the morning session, proceedings momentarily came to a halt after Mr Ngunjiri was taken ill suddenly and had to be given First Aid.
The court’s attention to the incident was brought by one of the defence lawyers who told the magistrate that Mr Ngunjiri was “about to faint in the dock”.
The lawyer had apparently noticed that Mr Ngunjiri was sweating profusely and coughing continuously before he fainted.
It took the intervention of Kakamega Senator Dr Boni Khalwale, a trained medical doctor, to unbutton his shirt and administer First Aid before he regained consciousness and was helped out by court orderlies.
Ambulance staff treated him at the basement cells before he returned to answer to the charges. The cases will be heard between July 7 and 11.
He was charged with calling for the forceful eviction of Luos from Nakuru county.
The prosecution said that on June 11 at Kiamunyi estate, Nakuru he uttered words that implied that it was desirable to bring death or physical injury to the Luo community in the county.
He was also charged with ethnic contempt contrary to section 62 of the national cohesion and intervention act.
Addressing a crowd of Cord supporters after the verdict, Mr Odinga said the charges were framed to intimidate the opposition MPs and had nothing to do with hate speech.
He noted that Mr Muthama for instance had been charged with an offense allegedly committed last year.
He announced that the rally Cord had earlier scheduled for Machakos on Sunday had been cancelled off.
Instead, Cord was going to put all its efforts in ensuring the removal of IEBC commissioners from office.
Mr Wetangula on his part said the opposition will not relent on its push for electoral reforms even with intimidation from government.
End/ Nation news Kenya