Only female inmate hopes to evade death penalty in retrial

Hawo Mohamed (left) with Secretary of Public Prosecutions Dorcas Oduor during a review of cases at Marsabit Prison last week. [Gardy Chacha, Standard]
Hawo Mohamed, a mother of three, stands out at Marsabit Prison. She is the only female prisoner at the facility.

She has been assigned a female prison warder who is always in tow, watching her every move.

In her yellow dira, she does not strike many as a prisoner. Her male colleagues mostly spot the prison uniform of white and navy blue stripes.

Hawo is in remand awaiting retrial as ordered by the Court of Appeal in Meru.

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Favourable ruling

“I was sentenced to death in 2013,” she says, tears flooding her eyes, as memories of that day stream through her mind.

After lodging an appeal, Hawo received a favourable ruling in June 2016 by Court of Appeal judges, who declared the 2013 case a mistrial and ordered that she be retried.

Like most prisoners, Hawo claims that she is innocent. She has been a guest of the State since 2011 – the year her husband accused her of killing his mother.

She claims that her husband sent her to the market to buy kitchen supplies in preparation for a feast; child-naming celebrations. When she returned home, angry villagers pounced on her and brutally beat her up.

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“My husband accused me of killing his mother and stuffing her body in a bag,” she says.

Police saved her in the nick of time from lynching.

As the only female prisoner among 84 inmates, one might worry about her safety.

“Mostly, I'm kept separate from the male prisoners,” she says.

“And so I feel secure. I haven’t been attacked.”

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Not long ago, the female section of the prison housed eight inmates, but seven were either released or moved, leaving her alone.

Hawo wishes there were other female colleagues to interact and have conversations with.

Right now, she adds, a TV set is her only companion.

“I watch TV when I am bored. It keeps my mind engaged somehow,” she says.

For now, she says, she can stomach the loneliness.

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Of all the jails she has been remanded or incarcerated in – including Moyale, Lang’ata, Meru, and Nyeri – she says Marsabit is where she feels she has been treated well.

Case review

Hawo is one of the 56 remandees at the prison whose cases are being reviewed by the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DDP).

The exercise is expected to be undertaken in at least 90 per cent of prisons in Kenya.

“Our prisons are severely congested. About half of prisoners are remandees whose cases are yet to be concluded. DPP is having a second look at all remand cases to fast-track them in order to lessen the backlog,” said Ms Dorcas Oduor, the secretary of public prosecutions, who led a team of prosecutors from ODPP to the prison.

death penaltymurder chargesMarsabit