State to pay former Commander Sh37M over attempted 1982 coup

By Pamela Chepkemei 

NAIROBI, KENYA: Former Kenya Air Force Commander Major General Peter Kariuki, imprisoned over the attempted coup in 1982, has been awarded Sh37 million by a court as compensation.

General Kariuki will also get back his ranks, benefits, honours and decorations. He has no conviction record after the sentence was quashed by the court.

The Court of Appeal in Nairobi found that General Kariuki’s constitutional rights were violated by a court martial which tried him and sentenced him to four years imprisonment General Kariuki after finding him guilty of failing to prevent and suppress a mutiny. The court ordered the Government to pay him the damages.

Appellate Judges, Patrick Kiage, Kathurima  M’Inoti and Mohammed Warsame also quashed General Kariuki’s conviction and  the four-year jail term by the court martial meted on him 31 years ago.

“We also direct that the appellant’s ranks, benefits, honours and decorations be restored forthwith,” the judges ruled.

The court awarded Sh22.9 million as salary arrears and Sh15 million as general damages for violation of his constitutional rights, in particular,  the violation of his right to a fair trial by an independent and impartial court.

The court allowed General Kariuki’s appeal and overturned a decision by High Court Judge Daniel Musinga who awarded him Sh7million.

The court ruled that the violations of General Kariuki’s constitutional rights went far beyond his right to liberty and fundamentally implicated his right to a fair trial.

The court added that such violations cannot be appropriately remedied by an award of damages alone.

The judges said a conviction founded on such palpable and glaring violation of General Kariuki’s right to a fair trial should not be allowed to remain in force.

“A conviction arrived at on the back of egregious violations of the magnitude and scale we have found in this appeal, is a danger not only to the appellant but to the society itself,” the judges said.

The days spent by the former Air Force Commander during pre-trial detention and post-trial imprisonment added up to 1,982.

His lawyer Paul Muite argued that the general damages of Sh7 million was manifestly low for the kind of violations General Kariuki suffered. He told the Court of Appeal that the award was inadequate redress.

Mr Muite argued that General Kariuki’s right to a fair hearing within a reasonable period by an independent and impartial court was violated.

General Kariuki was arrested after the mutiny had been quelled, and confined for some time at Kamiti Maximum Prison Nairobi.

He was subsequently transferred to Naivasha Maximum Security Prison where he was held in solitary confinement for 147 days . 

He appeared before a court martial and was charged with failing to prevent a mutiny and failing to suppress a mutiny.

He was convicted on January 18 1983 by the court martial and sentenced to four years. He was dismissed from the Kenya Airforce and stripped of his rank, benefits, medals and decorations.

On July 21, 2006 he  filed a petition at the High Court alleging violations of his constitutional rights had been violated and was subsequently awarded Sh7million .

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