The Attorney General’s office cleared a private counsel to prosecute a high profile case that has generated debate in the legal fraternity.
Queen’s Counsel (QC) Khawar Qureshi was allowed to practice law as a foreigner in Kenya only in the case touching on Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu.
“I am pleased to inform you that Mr Khawar Qureshi QC has been admitted to practice as an advocate in Kenya and to attend with the Director of Public Prosecutions in the conduct of the aforesaid matters,” the AG stated in a letter to Qureshi dated December 5.
Qureshi, who is also expected to maintain a valid practicing certificate for the duration of the retainer, is subject to the disciplinary process as applies to a foreign advocate under the Advocates Act during his limited practice in the country.
Yesterday, Law Society of Kenya President Allen Gichuhi said only the AG has the powers to accredit a foreign lawyer under the Act.
Qureshi is said to have met the conditions set out in section 11 of the Advocates Act Cap 16. The conditions include paying to the Chief Registrar of the Judiciary a prescribed admission fee and attending court in the company of a counsel from the DPP’s office.
However, the Act does not allow Qureshi to sign or file any pleadings in court on behalf of the DPP’s office.
Homa Bay Town MP Peter Kaluma faulted the DPP for hiring Qureshi, saying this clearly shows he does not have confidence in the lawyers serving in his office and Kenya as a whole.
Kaluma warned that this could create room for the filing of a petition to remove the DPP from office due to “incompetence”.
“We lost the Anglo-Leasing case before the foreign court because the then Solicitor General who appeared for Kenya and made presentations in the matter, though qualified as a lawyer, had not been licensed to appear and act as an advocate in that jurisdiction,” Kaluma said.
However, DPP Noordin Haji defended the decision to hire the services of the QC to prosecute the case, saying the appointment was in line with the Constitution. He said in the past the same had been done in the UK and Kenya.
On Thursday, the corruption case facing Mwilu failed to start after the defence team, led by Senior Counsel James Orengo, questioned the presence of Qureshi. But speaking yesterday, Haji said that in the past, including last year, a QC had been appointed in Kenya and practised in the law courts.
“At the moment there are many questions on the role of Secretary Public Prosecutions (SSP), including allegations of political interference and witch-hunt and hence the need for independence in this case,” he said.
He told of his surprise by the decision to block the QC from practice, adding that Namibia had in the past used Commonwealth judges to address one of their cases. The DPP was speaking during a plea bargain workshop at Enashipai Resort in Naivasha, where he praised the new initiative meant to decongest prisons and reduce case backlog.