Kenya seeks US,UN support in Akasha extradition saga

Lawyer Cliff Ombetta (right) with his clients Ibrahim Akasha and Gulam Hussein before High Court Judge, Justice Martin Muya

MOMBASA, KENYA: The Director of Public Prosecution DPP has requested the United Nations UN office in Nairobi (UNON) to provide a Farsi/English translator/interpreter for the extradition case facing the Akasha brothers and two co-defendants at the Mombasa law courts.
The request on Friday follows the pullout of two translator/interpreters, including one hired by the judiciary from Iran's embassy in Nairobi and by protests by the defence for the US to supply a replacement.
Gulam Hussein, from Pakistan speaks a version of Farsi which is Iran's national language and claims not to know English which is used in Kenyan courts. He and Vijay Goswami, a convicted felon from India and Baktash and Ibrahim Akasha are resisting extradition to the US after a court in the New York area indicted them late 2014 for allegedly trying to import narcotics into that country. They are free on bond but under stringent conditions imposed by the court. The suspects were arrested at the Akashas mansion in Nyali, Mombasa, in a sting operation organized by US anti-narcotics agents.
Extradition proceedings launched by the DPP since 2014 have stalled from various legal maneuvers and applications and now the withdrawal of two Farsi/English translator/interpreters is the latest obstacle. Last month an interpreter from the Iran's embassy declined to participate in the case after one appearance claiming he had been threatened. Significantly this withdrawal was announced by the magistrate who declined to order a police investigation after the DPP's representative requested a police probe.
On Friday a second interpreter disappeared within the court precincts after making a brief appearance in court before the proceedings started. A court clerk told the magistrate that the interpreter had vanished into thin air and switched off his cellphone prompting an adjournment.
"The development is frustrating and what we can now do is to look for another date as we try to find another interpreter through the Chief Registrar," Mombasa Chief Magistrate Julius Nangea.
Senior Assistant Director of Public Prosecution Alexander also expressed the state's frustration and suggested that the state could seek the assistance of the UN office in Nairobi combating international drug trade or the US embassy in Nairobi.
Muteti said that..."in view of the prevailing situation I am applying to the United Nations Office of Drugs regional office for Eastern Africa to avail for us the interpreter. I am also aware the US can also assist us but it is unfortunate the defense earlier rejected that offer over claims the US has an interest in the case."
Defence lawyer Cliff Ombeta shot up to oppose any US involvement saying his clients were not comfortable with an interpreter supplied by the Americans.
"We will not be comfortable with an interpreter brought by US government because they are interested party in the proceedings," said Ombeta who added that his clients have rejected this proposal before.
Nangea adjourned the case after ruling that the Chief Registrar of the Court will decide where the interpreter will come from.
The defence has opposed the proceedings arguing that the DPP violated Kenyan law by commencing the extradition proceedings. Ombeta says the proceedings should have been launched by the Attorney General.
But the state insists the DPP is competent in law and brought the proceedings in compliance with the law applicable in an extradition treaty between Kenya and US.
The DPP says the court has jurisdiction over this matter arguing anything to do with competence of charges are matters which can be canvassed before a trial court in US
"The contention by the fugitives that the evidence against them was obtained illegally, through misrepresentation, deceit or undue influence is also a matter for the trial court to determine" said DPP in an affidavit sworn by Chief Inspector of Police Joseph Indeke.
The defendants have also demanded that a video cassette allegedly recorded by the US agents apparently showing Baktash communicating with his undercover agents should be adduced in court.
The state opposes this saying this evidence can only be produced in the trial court in the US.
On Friday defence lawyers unsuccessfully tried to exclude foreign journalists from the proceedings claiming this group of reporters is unfairly targeting and prejudicing their clients.
Ombeta further alleged that the foreign media has a vendetta against Vijay.
Defence lawyer Wandugu Karathe claimed that some Candian journalist who was in the court taking proceedings had not been accredited by the Media Council of Kenya to work in Kenya. Muteti said the interest of the foreign media in this case is only natural and justified.
The magistrate said it was not the work of the courts to verify who were practicing journalism in Kenya adding that journalists are free to collect and disseminate information without interference.

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