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Lawyers want case against 22 Kikuyu elders dismissed

Senior Counsel Martha Karua (centre) together with lawyers and some of the defendants outside Murang’a law courts on January 19.

Lawyers representing 22 people who were arrested at Mukurwe wa Nyagathanga have opposed an attempt by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (ODPP) to have the case withdrawn.

Senior Counsel Martha Karua, who is leading a group of over 50 lawyers representing the accused, argued that the defence wants to have the case dismissed and not just withdrawn.

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She explained that withdrawing the case under section 87(a) does not mean the case is over as the accused can be arrested and prosecuted again as investigations to gather evidence against them will be ongoing.

Karua noted that it also means that they will be setting a precedent that other persons can be arrested under similar circumstances.

She argued that the Agikuyu like all other Kenyans deserve freedom of worship and added that the prosecution of the 22 amounts to ethnic profiling.

“This case is a test for the Mount Kenya Region because it seems their culture and religion are being criminalized,” Karua said.

“The charges against the accused are defective and should be dismissed not withdrawn,” she added.

The accused, who are mostly senior citizens, were arraigned at Murang’a law courts before Senior Principal Magistrate Edwin Nyaga in an impromptu hearing as their case was scheduled for hearing on February 28; the DPP, through a letter, requested for a special hearing to withdraw the case.

Lawyer Kibe Mungai, argued that there were some irregularities surrounding the withdrawal of the case among them the fact that the DPP did not supply a physical copy of the change of hearing date to the accused as required.

He also slammed the ambush hearing and noted that the DPP was not in a position to change the set hearing date as that would short-circuit the proceedings.

Lawyer Ndegwa Njiru who was informed of the new court date through a letter last Friday, on his part, said freedom of worship and culture must be protected and they do not want a situation where people will be required to get special permits to assemble for worship or cultural practices.

“No community should be profiled for practicing the rights enshrined in the Constitution and we are going to fight the criminalisation of the Kikuyu culture,” he said.

“This case is not just against the 22 accused persons but it is ethnic profiling of the entire Kikuyu community,” he said.

Njiru noted that withdrawal of the case would entrap the elders and label them criminals and they can only be truly free after the matter is concluded and the cases thrown out.

He noted that shrines should be accessible to the public and the defense team is not going to allow restrictions to practicing culture or worship.

The case will be heard on February 28 as previously scheduled.

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