On MP John Waluke, there's only one route if Raila wants him free

Sirisia Member of Parliament John Waluke. [File, Standard]

Sirisia MP John Waluke can secure freedom through only one route – a successful appeal against his jailing by the lower courts.

On Monday, October 31, Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya leader Raila Odinga attracted criticism from online users when he called for the release of Waluke, saying President William Ruto’s administration was selectively influencing the course of justice.

Odinga was making reference to the cases linked to President Ruto’s allies that have since collapsed, or are on the verge of collapsing, over lack of evidence.

“People accused of murder have been pardoned and appointed to the Cabinet as Cabinet Secretaries. Others who are facing multi-million-shilling corruption cases are walking scot-free. Our people [in Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya], on the other hand, are being persecuted. We want Waluke freed on bond, and, thereafter, released,” said Odinga in Mumias Constituency, Kakamega County on Monday.

Waluke, an MP sponsored to Parliament by Jubilee Party, which belongs to Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya Coalition, was jailed for 67 years, or pay a fine of almost Sh1 billion, for Sh297 million National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) fraud.

On October 6, he lost an appeal at the High Court after his conviction by a lower court. The legislator is currently in prison, but has since filed an appeal against the High Court’s decision.

Lawyers say the only way Waluke can secure freedom, is through a successful appeal, and not through a gentleman’s agreement, or any other extrajudicial means.

“A judicial process is distinct from politics, and the two should be distinguished at all times. Waluke’s appeal will be determined based on evidence, and not political undertones,” said Dennis Anyoka Moturi, an Advocate of the High Court.

The criminal defense lawyer told The Standard that the judicial route, through a successful appeal, is the only way Waluke can secure freedom.

Another lawyer, Gerald Kithinji, told The Standard that should Waluke be freed extrajudicially, then Kenya’s justice system would be on trial.

“Kenyans should have faith in the courts. Waluke has filed an appeal against his conviction. The right thing to do, is to let the legal process take its course,” said Kithinji.

Nzau Musau, a seasoned journalist who is pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Law at the University of Nairobi, reiterates the statements by lawyers Anyoka and Kithinji, saying a successful appeal is one of the two ways that Waluke can secure freedom.

“The other option is for him to rely on the presidential power of mercy, whose criteria strictly adheres to the established guidelines,” said Musau.

Waluke and his co-convict, Grace Wakhungu, have applied to be released on bail, pending determination of their case at the Court of Appeal.

The two argue that there are exceptional circumstances to warrant their conditional release.

If Waluke remains behind bars for at least six months, then the Speaker of the National Assembly Moses Wetangula would have no option but to declare the Sirisia parliamentary seat vacant.

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