'Hijacked' driver charged with killing 12 in Mpeketoni

'Hijacked' driver charged with killing 12 in Mpeketoni
Diana Salim Suleiman
Lamu, Kenya: A driver who claims he was hijacked by the gunmen behind last month's killings in Mpeketoni has been charged with killing 12 of the victims.

It was a dramatic reversal of fortunes for Diana Salim Suleiman when he was hauled before a judge in a Mombasa Court yesterday to plead to 12 murder charges as his lawyers protested that the prosecution was trying an innocent man.

Following his arrest, Diana has maintained that he was hijacked on June 15 by gunmen posing as passengers on the Malindi-Lamu Road, who forced him to drive to Kipini, Lamu County. He claims he was beaten by his captors who robbed him of his matatu and abandoned him in the bush.

The vehicle was later found burnt outside Mpeketoni on June 16 and it is believed it was used by the attackers to ride into the town. Yesterday, Diana claimed that he reported the alleged hijacking to police at Mokowe Police Station and was chased away.

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But yesterday the prosecution opened murder charges against him, claiming he killed 12 people. The State will investigate the conduct of police officers in Lamu, who refused to record the statement of a matatu driver who has been charged with the murder of 12 Mpeketoni victims.

State lawyer Alex Muteti told Justice Edward Mureithi this after the defence lawyers gave the prosecution notice that they will seek to prove their client was not in Mpeketoni during the attack.

"We are giving notice to the prosecution to investigate the alibi of our client that the accusations being levelled against him are untrue because he was a victim of hijacking when the thugs struck," said a lawyer.

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Suleiman's lawyer A B Olaba told a Mombasa court yesterday that his client was being vilified for a crime he did not commit, insisting he will prove that he was not part of the gang that killed more than 60 people.

Olaba said this while opposing the State's application to have Suleiman denied bail.

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Senior Principal prosecution counsel Alex Muteti told Justice Mureithi that Suleiman should not be released on bond as he was a flight risk and would not attend the trial if released on bond.

Olaba who produced a letter from Lamu District Hospital confirming Suleiman was admitted to the facility on June 15 with injuries he sustained during the hijack.

The lawyer also told the court that before the hijack, his client was flagged down by some people posing as passengers.

Suleiman denied killing Fred Mwaura, Elicana Mabila, Karisa Thoya Iha, Drius Mwanzi and Geofrey Kipkorir Chepkwony.

Justice Mureithi ordered the accused to be remanded at Malindi Police Station until Monday when he will rule on whether the accused should be released on bond.

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Mpeketoni Diana Salim Suleiman murder gunmen