Noordin Haji opposes MP John Waluke bid to be released on bail

DPP Noordin Haji. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji has opposed an application by Sirisia MP John Waluke to be released on bail, pending his appeal.

The MP asked Court of Appeal judges Asike Makhandia, Sankale ole Kantai and Grace Ngenye to grant him bail, pending the determination of his 32-year jail sentence.

The DPP, through State Counsel Alexander Muteti, argued that there are no special circumstances to warrant his release.

“Waluke was properly convicted and sentenced by the magistrate and the High Court and unless the decision is set aside, he is serving a lawful sentence and should not be released,” said Muteti.

Mr Muteti told the Appellate judges that being an MP does not grant Waluke special consideration to be released on bail and that he will not suffer any harm if he continues serving the sentence until the case is concluded. According to the prosecutor, the MP has not demonstrated that he has an arguable appeal with high chances of success since he is raising similar issues which were dismissed by High Court judge Esther Maina.

“His appeal will not be rendered nugatory should he be denied bail since the court has powers to quash the conviction in the unlikely event that they overturn the decision to jail him,” said Muteti.

Muteti said claims by the MP that his incarceration has denied the people of Sirisia constituency effective representation in Parliament does not justify his release since the public interest in the fight against corruption outweighs his individual right to be an MP.

Waluke’s lawyers Otiende Amollo and Elisha Ongoya however pleaded with the Appellate judges to release the legislator arguing that he has a strong appeal with high chances of success.

According to the lawyers, the MP was wrongly convicted based on untenable evidence which arose from an arbitration award. The lawyers said Waluke will suffer great prejudice should he continue being in prison and the appeal succeeds.

Waluke and his co-convict Grace Wakhungu have appealed against the lengthy jail sentences and a fine of Sh1.8 billion handed to them for defrauding Sh313 million from the National Cereals and Produce Board.

They argued that Lady Justice Maina failed to consider their evidence which proved they did not steal public funds and instead got misled by the prosecution to uphold the sentence by anti-corruption court chief magistrate Elizabeth Juma.

According to the lawyers, the High Court made a mistake by failing to subject the evidence to a fresh and exhaustive re-evaluation, analysis and re-assessment to draw her own conclusion instead of relying only on information submitted by the prosecution.

“The judge took a narrow view of the case by isolating key evidence including other decisions by the High Court which had confirmed that the money they received through their company Erad Supplies Limited was not acquired through corruption,” said the lawyers.

The lawyers argued that since the amount was paid pursuant to an arbitration award and an order of the High Court, there is nothing to justify the decision to jail Waluke and Wakhungu.

The High Court, last month, affirmed the magistrate’s decision to sentence Waluke to 32 years in jail or a fine of Sh627 million and Wakhungu to 33 years or a fine of Sh628 million.