17 face murder attempt charges over Raila attack
Seventeen people suspected to have taken part in an attack on former Prime Minister’s Raila Odinga’s helicopter in Kabenes, Uasin Gishu county, will face attempted murder charges.
The suspects, who yesterday appeared before Eldoret Senior Resident Magistrate Emily Kigen, will also face charges of malicious damage to property, incitement to violence and creating disturbance on April 1. Investigations were yesterday taken over by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations headquarters where Suna East Member of Parliament Junet Mohammed and his Embakasi East counterpart Babu Owino are expected to record statements today after being summoned.
Legislators were at the scene of the attack and sources say they will be among key prosecution witnesses.
Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago is also expected to record a statement after his car was damaged during the chaos. Prosecution, through Jamleck Mureithi, had requested for 14 days to enable police conclude investigations, but the magistrate reduced it to a week following an appeal by the suspects’ lawyer Titus Bitok.
Prosecution argued that some of the suspects were ferried from elsewhere and were, therefore, likely to abscond and interfere with collection of evidence if released.
“This matter is of public interest considering that it happened during the election period. Where most of the suspects live is also not known and it will be difficult to trace them if released. Some of them are students who are set to fly out and may do so before this matter is concluded if released,” said Mureithi.
But the defence team opposed the application, arguing that police had already resolved to prosecute the accused by the time they arrested them.
“The right to fair hearing is enshrined in the Constitution. The veracity of an offence is not weighted down upon by the number of suspects,” argued Bitok. He dismissed claims by the prosecution that some of the suspects had no fixed abode, noting that their parents were in court and are well known.
“Right to fair hearing is being violated by the prosecution. This issue has been blown out of proportion as if the world is coming to an end. These are common incidences all over the country. Fourteen days is way too excessive,” argued Bitok.
In her ruling, Kigen granted the prosecution’s request for time to conclude investigations, noting that it was also for the good of the suspects.
She also said the number of suspects to be charged with the offences will depend on the outcome of ongoing investigations.
“This will also give the court a clearer picture to make a determination whether to charge the suspects or not. It is for their common good as some of them may be exonerated of the offence,” said the magistrate.
Suspects will be detained at Eldoret Police Station until April 14 when the case will come up for hearing. During the incident on Friday, a chopper which had ferried Raila and other Azimio La Umoja dignitaries was damaged after it was pelted with stones by a group of rowdy youth.
Raila had just attended the burial of prominent Eldoret farmer cum businessman Jackson Kibor at his Kabenes farm in Soy constituency.
DCI detectives have already interrogated Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi, his Soy counterpart Caleb Kositany and Uasin Gishu Assembly Speaker David Kiplagat.
According to a preliminary report by DCI, the politicians were the main planners and financiers of the attack on Raila’s entourage.
On Sunday, President Uhuru Kenyatta waded into the incident, warning that it could have set the country on fire.
The President said it was only by the grace of God that the stones aimed at Raila did not hit him, otherwise the incident would have created chaos in the country.
President Uhuru, while condemning politics of chaos and violence, implored political leaders to conduct their campaigns in a peaceful manner devoid of pitting Kenyans against each other.
Regarding the case of Sudi and two of his colleagues, detectives are waiting for a forensic analysis report on their phones to determine their communication with the 14 people in custody before they forward the file to Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji.
Forensic experts are also examining the politicians’ mobile phones to determine money transactions they made either on the actual day or the day before the violence. Police have also recorded a statement from the pilot of the chopper, Colonel (Rtd) Paul Ndege.
The politicians were grilled by detectives from Uasin Gishu and their counterparts at the Nakuru regional headquarters and later ordered to be on standby for further interrogations.
Speaking in Nakuru after the grilling, Sudi denied any involvement in the incident, saying the move is politically instigated.
Sudi, who termed the incident as “childish”, said he respects Raila, saying he cannot plan such an act for political mileage.
“Whatever happened is regrettable and we do not want to wish anyone any ills. We urge security agencies to fully investigate the matter,” he said.
Kositany on the other hand said they are willing and ready to cooperate with detectives on the matter and regretted the incident.
He confirmed that detectives had seized their phones for data analysis, adding that they had been requested to be ready for further summons.
Sources within DCI intimated to People Daily that detectives have strong reasons to believe the three leaders organised and coordinated the violence.