Eight legislators yesterday spent the night in police cells as the State moved in to crack down on hate speech.
The legislators had to endure forcible arrest, a three-hour detention in dark cells and a further detention of four days in remand after police asked for more time for investigations.
They are now are staring at a Sh1 million fine or a jail-term of up to three years if convicted. Their arrests and arraignment in court was the culmination of dramatic scenes as police sought them save for Jubilee coalition’s Moses Kuria (Gatundu South) and Ferdinand Waititu (Kabete).
Mr Kuria and Mr Waititu survived dawn raids at their city homes after they appeared at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to write statements on Monday night. They left DCI offices at 9pm after being given free bond.
Kimani Ngunjiri (Bahati) was also not arrested after he presented himself to the police.
But it was a bad day for the Opposition lawmakers after they refused to present themselves at the DCI offices.
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They woke up yesterday morning to find their homes surrounded by dozens of police officers, and one was even arrested as he left a live TV interview.
Johnstone Muthama (Machakos), Junet Mohamed (Suna East), Aisha Jumwa (Kilifi), Florence Mutua (Busia) and Timothy Bosire (Kitutu Masaba) were eventually arrested after recording statements at the DCI headquarters on Kiambu Road.
Together with the Jubilee MPs, they were hauled to court at 2pm. They were locked up until 5pm when they were presented in court. They remained composed in the dock as their respective lawyers haggled for their freedom until 7.30pm when Chief Magistrate Daniel Ogembo said they should be locked up.
With the Opposition leader Raila Odinga and at least 40 CORD MPs listening in the packed court room at the Milimani Law Courts in Nairobi, Mr Ogembo ruled that the MPs suspected of hate speech and incitement should be locked up for four days.
“Owing to the ongoing incitement incidence, it is clear to the court that there are compelling reasons as to why the MPs should remain detained... Since investigations have not been completed and the Prosecution has said they require time, in the court’s view the suspects should remain in custody,” the chief magistrate said.
As soon as the gavel fell, police officers herded the suspects together and whisked them to the cells next to the courtroom.
Ogembo said the suspects should be remanded at Kilimani, Muthaiga, Muthangari, and Gigiri police stations, for the police to conclude investigations and present them to court to face the charges.
FOUR DAYS DETENTION
The Prosecution had insisted on the detention for four more days, arguing that the period was sufficient for a forensic analysis of their statements captured on video, in order to come up with foolproof charges to guarantee a conviction.
Prosecutor Leonard Maingi said the MPs had to be locked up because, if set free, they would use their influence to interfere with investigations.
Mr Maingi said the country is in an electioneering mood and caution must be taken to avoid a repeat of 2007 post-election violence.
He said the trend taken by politicians was likely to plunge the country into chaos as some leaders had intensified incitement ahead of the 2017 elections.
“We urge this court to take judicial notice that as the country gears up for the general elections, incidents of hate speech, intolerance and outright incitement to violence are taking a dangerous trend,” Maingi said.
The packed courtroom was ringed with police officers from the General Service Unit in anticipation of a clash between Opposition and Jubilee supporters.
Starehe MP Maina Kamanda was forcibly ejected from the courtroom before the proceedings began. It took the intervention of police to have him escorted out of the Milimani Law Courts.
Kuria also provoked the crowd when he held Waititu and Ngunjiri’s arms and raised them in a victory salute. They were booed by the Opposition supporters before Raila reprimanded them and asked them to be calm.
Lawyer James Orengo for CORD MPs urged the court to dismiss the application on grounds that there were no compelling reasons to continue holding them.
He said since police had obtained the said footage there was no likelihood of them interfering with the investigations. He said the nature of the application does not disclose any offences committed by the CORD legislators.
He further said the CORD MPs voluntarily appeared before the police and were not arrested as alleged.
For Jubilee, Francis Munyororo said bail was a constitutional right that cannot be denied on basis of apprehensions. He said the subjects were willing to report to respective police stations for interrogation.
The Prosecution said Kuria on June 13 made remarks alluding to the physical injury and death of Raila Odinga at the Kasarani gymnasium.
Waititu, the prosecutor said, also alluded that it was desirable to kill the CORD leader.
The Prosecution said Mr Mohammed, Mr Muthama, Mr Bosire, Ms Mutua and Ms Jumwa at a press conference on June 13 at Capitol Hill uttered words to the effect that they would create chaos and forcibly storm the IG’s office if “certain people” were not arrested.
The prosecution wanted four days to hold the politicians for in-depth investigations into the alleged utterances.