11 university students arrested over HELB demo arraigned in court

Some of the university students accused of taking part in the demonstration. They were released on Sh20,000 cash bail. [PHOTO: GEORGE NJUNGE/STANDARD]
Nairobi, Kenya: Eleven university students were Wednesday charged before a magistrate's court in Nairobi with unlawful assembly following a demonstration.

The students from University of Nairobi and Technical University of Kenya pleaded not guilty before Senior Principal Magistrate Martha Mutuku and were released on a Sh50,000 bond with a surety of a similar amount or a cash bail of Sh20,000.

Mutuku also directed the prosecution to supply the defense with documents they would use in the case.
Defense lawyer Daniel Bosire said the charges against the students were unfair since the students had already informed police that they will hold the demonstrations.

"Your honour, students had informed police of the planned peaceful demonstration over the delay of Higher Education Loans Board (HELB," he said.

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Bosire said some students had stayed home for a year due to lack of fees and will be forced to repeat a semester.

He told the court that police acted in malice by arresting students and failing to arrest the leaders who led the demonstration.

"The chairman of the group was not arrested yet he was the main reason for the demonstration. The role of student leaders is to advocate students' rights, which is not an offense," he said.

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However, State Counsel Dancan Ondimu told the court that the students had participated in blocking roads, disrupting peace and destroying property during the demonstration.

He asked the court to give a bond that will ensure they appear for the hearing and also deter them from participating in similar activities.

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"The conduct of the accused persons did not display peacefulness. Let the court take judicial notice that the accused promised to repeat the same tomorrow," Ondimu said.

The State counsel told the court that the law does not object to expression of grievances but the manner in which the students expressed their concerns was the issue.

Lawyer Bosire said the prosecution was using baseless arguments since the students had only been charged with holding an illegal meeting and not for disruption of peace or destruction of property.

The case will be heard on November 20 with a mention on October 7.

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