Court declines to award MUHURI Sh2m in suit against state

Muslim for Human Rights (MUHURI)'s lawyer James Orengo, group chairperson Khelef Khalifa and former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga at the Mombasa High Court. MUHURI had sued the state for linking it to terror group al-Shabaab. [Kelvin Karani, Standard]
High Court has declined to award Muslim for Human Rights (MUHURI) Sh2.1 million in damages in a defamation suit against the government for linking it to the al-Shabaab terror group.

While throwing out the case, Justice Dorah Chepkwony ruled that the suit was time-barred, wondering why the organisation failed to file it within 12 months.

 “This court has not been furnished with any reason explaining why MUHURI failed to institute the suit within 12 months,” said Justice Chepkwony. 

In 2015 following the massacre of 147 students at Garissa University, the government proceeded to gazette MUHURI and other 13 entities as outlawed entities suspected to be funding Al-Shabaab and ordered for the freezing of the accounts.

SEE ALSO :Kenya determined to have Al-Shabaab declared terrorist group- DCI

MUHURI was later cleared by the High Court and proceeded to sue the government for defaming the organization and linking it to crime leading to loss of reputation and financial ruin.

However, Attorney General AG counsel Wachira Guyo told the court that MUHURI had filed the suit 13 months after the organisation was gazetted as an outlawed entity.

The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) proceeded to advise commercial banks to freeze accounts of MUHURI following the gazette notice labelling the human rights organisation as an outlawed entity.

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CBK Assistant Director Mugo Matu said that CBK froze the accounts based on the advice from the Finance Reporting Centre (FRC) that allegedly drew a list of entities suspected to have aided in financing terror activities among them MUHURI.

In a grilling cross-examination by MUHURI’s lawyer, Siaya Senator James Orengo CBK Assistant Director Mugo Matu claimed CBK acted in good faith following a request report from FRC.

SEE ALSO :Somalia officers hand two Al-Shabaab suspects to Kenyan police

Matu in his defence said the action by FRC and AG to gazette MUHURI was triggered by the Garissa University attack that left 147 students dead.

Orengo accused CBK of proceeding to freeze the accounts without the approval from the Inter-Ministerial Committee and the Cabinet Secretary.

Human rights activist Maina Kiai, a board member of MUHURI has told the High Court in Mombasa that he suffered stigmatisation and financial embarrassment after the organisation was linked to Al-Shabaab terror group.

Kiai who is a former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association told a Justice Chepkwony that after MUHURI was outlawed, NIC bank stopped sending money to his daughter in the US.

Kiai said even the funds from the UN in Geneva to his Standard bank account stopped coming through NIC account to facilitate his activities as a UN Rapporteur.

SEE ALSO :Somalia authorities hand over two Al-Shabaab suspects to Kenya

Former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga defended MUHURI as a lawful group while testifying in court.

The former CJ who is the founder of MUHURI said that he was shocked to learn that the organisation he founded 21 years ago was being associated with terrorism.

He told Justice Chepkwony that his initial urge then as the CJ was to ask the Inspector General for proof but realised he would get in trouble with interfering with other independent government agencies.

“When I heard the accusations, I was shocked because this is an organisation I had founded and as a CJ, my initial urge was to call the IG and for proof but I realized it would get me into trouble,” said Mutunga.

Mutunga who was being examined by lead senior counsel James Orengo told the courts that the organization’s reputation suffered greatly as donors stopped sending funds.

SEE ALSO :Kenya seeks international help to stop Al-Shabaab financing

He told the courts that he founded MUHURI 21 years ago with the late Prof Ali Mazuruiis and it has always been funded by Scandinavian countries among them Canada, Poland, Sweden, Finland and Denmark.

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Al-ShabaabMUHURIHigh CourtDefamation suit