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DPP Haji appeals decision to acquit nine suspects in Solai dam tragedy

Suspects in Solai Dam tragedy Johnson Njuguna and Perry Manusukh and their lawyer Fredrick Masinde (right) at the Naivasha Law courts. [Antony Gitonga, Standard]

The Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji has appealed against the acquittal of nine suspects charged with causing 48 deaths in Solai dam tragedy two years ago.

Two days after a Naivasha court set the nine free, Haji termed the decision as unfair and an abuse of the rights of the victims of the dam tragedy.

This came as Naivasha Chief Magistrate Kennedy Bidali, who acquitted the nine, dismissed a petition by the KHRC seeking to be enjoined in the case.

Bidali noted that the ruling which freed the suspects had covered the issues of the petition noting that in the past victims had sworn an affidavit against been represented in the court.

The magistrate, however, declined to issue orders asked for by the defense seeking to have sureties of the suspects discharged saying that this would be handled by the upper court.

In the case, Perry Manusukh Kanasagara the owner of the farm and eight others, were charged with 48 counts of manslaughter on May 9, 2018 in Solai, Nakuru.

The other eight are Vinoj Jaya Kumar, Johnson Njuguna, Luka Kipyegen, Winnie Muthoni, Jacinta Were, Tomkin Odo Odhiambo, Williec Omondi and Lynette Cheruiyot.

State Counsel Alexander Muteti said that they had already gone to the court to seek the revision of the case which has been going on for the last eighteen months.

He said that they would be seeking orders to stop the ruling by the magistrate and for the case to proceed to its logical conclusion.

“The decision by the court to acquit the nine accused under Section 210 of the Criminal Procedure Code is improper since the prosecution had not tendered any evidence,” he said.

Outside the court, the victims of the tragedy flanked by officials from the DPP’s and KHRC office termed the ruling as unfair.

According to Isaac Chege, apart from filing an application seeking a revision of the case, they would lodge a complaint with the JSC over the conduct of the judge.

“The victims are aggrieved by this ruling and find that there has been a blatant miscarriage of justice  because they were not given a chance to present their case,” he said.

This was echoed by another victim Stephen Kuria who said that they were aggrieved by the court decision as their suffering was not considered before the case was thrown out.

Lawyer Hagai Chimei for KHRC and the victims questioned the ruling adding that they would also be heading to the court to appeal against the acquittal.

“This case is of high public interest and everyone is concerned by the decision to acquit the suspects before the victims’ side of the story could be heard,” he said.