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Orengo to lead lawyers in defending 10 bloggers targeted by police

By Cyrus Ombati | January 25th 2016 at 05:08:42 GMT +0300

Nairobi: Siaya Senator James Orengo will Wednesday lead a team of lawyers in representing 10 bloggers wanted by police over a variety of criminal allegations.

The bloggers have all been summoned by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations for grilling for allegedly misusing a licensed telecommunication gadget under section 29 of the Information and Communication Act.

This was after the bloggers posted on their Facebook and Tweeter accounts information that the authorities deemed provocative and criminal.

They include Robert Alai, Cyprian Nyakundi, Patrick Msafari, Seth Odongo, Charles Dienya, Anthony Mburu, Eddy Illah, Phelix G-Cord, George Nyongesa and Yassin Juma.

Juma was Monday released from police custody without charge.

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Some of the bloggers were summoned while others were arrested for their alleged crimes.

According to Alai, the bloggers, lawyers Orengo, Harun Ndubi and the head of investigations at DCI John Kariuki agreed they all appear on Wednesday for further questioning.

“We agreed to reappear on Wednesday for further grilling and Orengo will lead other lawyers in representing us. We feel we are being harassed for no reason,” said Alai.

Concerns have been raised over growing arrest and detention of bloggers perceived to be “critical” of the government.

But police said the targeted individuals had flaunted the law by posting provocative and criminal information and pictures.

“We have complaints and that is why we are investigating them. No one is targeting them wrongly,” said Kariuki.

Juma had posted, on his social media accounts, information about the Kenya Defence Forces attack in Somalia. He was arrested on Saturday night and spent two nights in police cells before he was taken to court but did not take plea.

Illah was arrested on January 19, 2016 and charged with publishing prohibited material by sharing images of what he alleged were Kenyan soldiers killed in an Al Shabaab attack, via a WhatsApp group.

Illah has denied the charge and has been remanded in custody pending the hearing of his case on February 9, 2016. Director Henry Maina said Section 29 of the Information and Communication Act regarding ‘improper use of a licensed telecommunication gadget’ is being increasingly used by State officials to target those communicating online.

“Article 33 of the Kenyan Constitution expressly states that every person has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, or impart information or ideas. The recent wave of arrests of those communicating online do not reach the high threshold regarding limitations that can be placed on expression under Article 33 (2), and thus the actions by the police are unconstitutional,” he said.

Maina urged the government to abide by the spirit of the Constitution regarding freedom of expression and to stop using this provision to clamp down on legitimate expression and democratic debate.

Officials at DCI headquarters who spoke on condition of not being quoted said they are under instructions from above to carry out the crackdown.

bloggers James Orengo Yassin Juma Robert Alai
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