Ahmednasir heads to EACJ as supreme ban splits lawyers

Ahmednasir Abdullahi. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

On December 15 last year at around 9am, senior lawyer Ahmednasir Abdullahi’s law firm filed an appeal before the Supreme Court, challenging a landmark judgment allowing children out of wedlock in Muslim relationships to inherit from their parents.

In the Court of Appeal Judgment, a three-judge bench comprising Justices Gatembu Kairu, Pauline Nyamweya, and George Odunga agreed that despite Islam religion abhorring sex before marriage, it is unfair to sideline children born from such escapades when their fathers die.

Two weeks later, on December 31, 2023, he posted on his X account that ‘Grand Mulla’s 2023 award- Court of the year 2023 went to the Supreme Court of Kenya for its efficiency in case management.

He continued that, “Sadly, the only thing one can celebrate the apex court for was the efficiency of registrars and clerks.”

However, this was not Ahmednasir’s self-proclaimed callout against the Judges of the Supreme Court and the judiciary at large, on what he alleged to be a clamour for weeding out corruption.

 In one post, he implored President William Ruto to set aside money to bribe Judges before the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court for positive orders. He further alleged that former President Uhuru Kenyatta had judges on a ‘retainer.’

While fanning the Grand Mullar-controversy, Ruto on his X official account claimed that Ahmednasir had warned him.

Little did the lawyer know that the incessant claims, without filing a petition or petitions for the removal of any of the seven judges before the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) would be treated as untrue and contempt and hurt him later. He was barred, alongside his law firm and associates from appearing before that court.

Supreme Court through registrar Letizia Muthoni Wachira reminded him that he had been warned but never heeded to it.

“Notwithstanding the damage to the reputation of the court, and the judges who have served thereon over the years, both in corporate and individual posture and in an effort to render justice to those you represent, the court has exercised restraint by not deploying punitive tools against you,” the letter read in part.

Supreme Court Judges are Chief Justice Martha Koome, her deputy Justice Philomena Mwilu, and Justices Mohamed Ibrahim, Smokin Wanjala, Njoki Ndung’u, Isaac Lenaola, and William Ouko.

In response, he yesterday vowed to move to the East Africa Court of Justice (EACJ) to challenge the Supreme Court’s ban but sustained his controversial statement of ‘corrupt court.’

 The ban elicited differing reactions, with some describing the decision as too harsh and against his right to free speech and fair hearing.

Law Society of Kenya President Eric Theuri was among those who were opposed to the decision.

“I spoke to Ahmednasir. The Supreme Court has irredeemably lost on this one. The Law Society of Kenya will not allow its statutory mandate to be encroached upon by the court and will seek immediate retraction and apology,” Theuri wrote on his X account.

To those who backed the decision, the failure by Ahmednasir to present evidence of what he claimed cannot be said to be free speech as he acted knowing that he could not provide proof.

Among those who supported the court are lawyer Donald Kipkorir. According to him, the continued attacks against the top court judges was not free speech.

“Let’s be honest …. Supreme Court has only seven Judges … When you wake up every morning for over ten years & say these Judges are irredeemably corrupt, incompetent, stupid, shallow, illiterate et al, you expect them to send you flowers & chocolates? These Judges have spouses, families & friends.”

“We know the Judges. You can’t rise up to be a Judge of the Supreme Court if you aren’t a cut above the rest. Supreme Court Judges worldwide are the best of lawyers. To support the lynching of these Judges in the name of Freedom of Speech is disingenuous, deceitful & blatant terrorism. One can condemn Judges generally & judgments in particular. But to narrow the attacks to only seven judges is beyond the pale,” he said.

 There are those who believe that some of the comments made elsewhere would have led to Ahmednasir's disbarment. Some of the Supreme Courts that have cracked the whip and had lawyers disbarred include India and California.

Sources in the Judiciary told The Standard that the apex court decision was bolstered by India’s Supreme Court and California verdicts to punish errant lawyers for unsubstantiated claims against Judges and the court.

The first casualty of the ban will be Ahmednasir’s client Fatuma Abud Faraj. She lost a succession case before the Court of Appeal as it ordered her to share the late Mombasa tycoon Salim Juma Hakeem's wealth with a child who was born outside marriage.

Islamic law dictates that where a child has been born out of a marriage, he or she can only inherit from the mother, and not the father.

On the eve of the 2022 presidential election petitions, the Supreme Court issued directions requiring advocates and litigants to express their opinions and merits and demerits or predict the outcome of live cases in court.

At the heart of the directions were again social media posts during the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) cases.

Chief Justice Martha Koome stated that the commentaries were meant to influence, intimidate and scandalise the court.

“ This, unfortunately, is emerging and unless checked, it will erode the confidence and dignity of the courts,” said Koome adding that casting aspersions amounted to professional misconduct.

Omwanza sued the Supreme Court and the directions were quashed by the High Court.

 It is the second time that his style of free speech is attracting Judges wrath.

The lawyer represented Sayed Nasrollah Ebrahim and Abdolhosein Gholi before the same court.

Nasrollah and Gholi’s trial at the highest court was characterised by high drama, heated exchanges.  In his submissions, he sensationally referred to the top court as a “headless chicken,” a “surrogate of the State” and “incoherent.”

The court gave him a dressing down for allegedly continuously disrespecting it.

Yesterday the same court had a dim view of the lawyer who once praised it.