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Baraza appears before judicial team for questioning

BUSINESS
By | January 11th 2012

By Wahome Thuku and Cyrus Ombati

Deputy Chief Justice Nancy Baraza appeared before a committee of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) set up to investigate her conduct.

Lady Justice Baraza walked into the interrogation room at around 4.30pm on Tuesday shortly after her accuser Rebecca Kerubo was interrogated.

They appeared before the eight-member committee at the Supreme Court, just two floors above Baraza’s office.

Ms Kerubo, who has accused Baraza of assaulting her and threatening to kill her, was accompanied by her lawyer Irungu Kangata, her husband Bernard Morara, and a colleague.

The eight-member committee chaired by Rev Julius Kobia was set up on Monday during a JSC meeting called by Chief Justice Willy Mutunga to discuss the matter. Rev Kobia is one of the commissioners representing the public.

The fiasco arose on the New Year eve when the DCJ went to buy drugs at a pharmacy at the Village Market shopping mall in Nairobi.

Ms Kerubo, who was manning a security desk, alleges Baraza declined to be cleared at the desk. She followed her into the pharmacy, demanding that she opens her handbag for the check.

The guard claims Baraza then instructed her bodyguard to shoot her but when he declined; the DCJ went to her car and returned with a gun, threatening to kill her.

Kerubo was summoned to appear before the committee through a letter sent to her lawyer on Monday. She spent about an hour narrating the events to the committee.

Sworn evidence

As she concluded her date with the committee, Baraza was ushered to the door of the meeting room.

She waited for a little while then went back to her office. Soon after Kerubo had left she was again escorted to the room by committee secretary Gladys Sholei, who is also the Chief Registrar of the Judiciary.

Minutes earlier, Baraza had attended the swearing in of the members of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission. She sat beside her boss Willy Mutunga as the commissioners took oath in the CJ’s boardroom.

Both Kerubo and Baraza gave sworn evidence before the committee. By late evening the DCJ was still giving her version of the story.

Kerubo’s husband and her colleague will also appear before the committee today.

At a media briefing after the meeting, lawyer Kangata said the guard had only narrated the story to the committee in a question and answer session.

She had maintained her claims that the DCJ pinched her nose for not recognising her and that she threatened her with a gun.

The guard denied claims that she had asked for money from Ms Baraza to settle the matter out of court.

"My client has not tried to extort money from anyone. All she wants is justice," the lawyer said.

"If the roles were reversed and she was the one who assaulted or threatened the deputy CJ, by now she would be at Kamiti Maximum Security Prisons. The same way they treat a common man is the way they should treat the DCJ," the lawyer said.

Baraza has denied wielding a gun or threatening the guard, saying she does not carry a firearm.

Earlier, the committee visited the Village Market to get a graphic picture of events. They went to the security check point and then to the adjacent pharmacy where Baraza is said to have assaulted the guard.

Strong room

They also went to the strong room where they viewed the CCTV footage in which the incidence is said to have been captured.

Rev Kobia told journalists that the footage and all the statements would form the basis of their report to be presented to the JSC before 2.30pm on Friday.Under the Constitution the only action that the JSC can take is to recommend to President Kibaki that a tribunal be set up to investigate her conduct. Meanwhile, the Director of Public Prosecution has pledged a fair prosecution of on the Baraza case.

DPP Keriako Tobiko said he received a file with various recommendations from the police on the issue and he is studying it before making his conclusion.

"The file makes recommendations to charge the judge. It is now under thorough review and I will make a conclusion based on the laws of the country and evidence available," he said.

Tobiko said he will not rush into making popular conclusions on the issue but will do it based on the evidence available.

Tobiko said the Commissioner of Police Mathew Iteere also forwarded a copy of the file to the chief justice.

Police want Lady Justice Baraza to face, among other charges, unlawful possession of a firearm, illegal use of a firearm and threatening to kill.

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