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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Ruto allies seek to stop Friday arrests

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Deputy President William Ruto allies wants the enactment of the Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment) Bill, 2020 to be expedited for fear of being targeted by arrests on Fridays.

The Bill sponsored by Belgut MP Nelson Koech, seeks to amend the Criminal Procedure Code to compel an officer in charge of a police station to release on mandatory bond a person arrested without a warrant and who cannot be presented to court within 24 hours.

The proponent of Bill argues that the if enacted, it will discourage the indefinite detention of government critics who may be arrested on accusations of other offences.

The Bill also seeks to amend section 36 of the Criminal Procedure Code to provide for mandatory execution of bond for such persons arrested without a warrant.

At the moment, it is left to the discretion of the officer in charge of a police station to issue bond but the proponents of the Bill argue this discretion is subject to abuse.

“When a person has been taken into custody without a warrant for an offence other than murder, treason, robbery with violence and attempted robbery with violence, the officer in charge of the police station to which the person has been brought shall in any case, if it does not appear practicable to bring that person before an appropriate subordinate court within 24 hours after the person has been taken into custody, inquire into the case, and release the person on his executing a bond, to appear before a subordinate court at a time and place to be named in the bond,” reads the Bill.

The Bill was published in November and is due to be introduced in the National Assembly.

Koech an ally of the DP said he is confident the House Business Committee (HBC) chaired by Speaker Justin Muturi will prioritise the Bill and speed up its introduction in the House.

The push for the law change comes at a time the relationship between the two top leaders has deteriorated to its worst levels after the President asked Dr Ruto to resign from his post as DP if he was unhappy with the way the Jubilee government is being run.

On Sunday, Koech said the Tangatanga camp fears that the crackdown against them could worsen in coming days as a form of intimidation for their political stand.

“That is what informed the amendment,” Mr Koech explained. “Politicians and leaders allied to the deputy president have been the greatest victims of this Kamata Kamata Fridays just because of their political persuasion,” Koech said.

But he insisted the law has become important for posterity because of the conduct by the police in recent times and to curb against abuse of State power to suppress critics.

The Friday arrests, common in 2018 and 2019, have been condemned with anti-establishment figures arguing the detentions are a tool to intimidate those with divergent opinion and not about fighting corruption

If the Bill is passed, and assented to by the President, Koech said the law will also come in handy for ordinary Kenyans who are routinely arrested for petty offences on Fridays and end up spending the weekend in police custody just because they have no money to either bail themselves out or bribe police officers.

The law requires the police should hold suspects not more than 24 hours before they are arraigned in court.

The DP and his allies have in the past criticised the practice arguing that it amounts to the overthrow of Article 29(a) of the Constitution, which expressly prohibits arbitrary deprivation of freedom without a just cause.

“The right to freedom is so fundamental that its deprivation should only be informed by concrete evidence, ready for presentation to a court of law,” Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei said.

Cherargei said the police have exploited a loophole under Article 49(f)(2) of the Constitution which allows them to hold a person for over 24 hours.

“By waiting for Fridays, they are making it so obvious. Kamata Kamata Fridays, as is known is the height of impunity,” Mr Cherargey said, adding that even after the 72-hour detention, the State has always sought further detention to finish investigations.

But National Assembly Minority Leader Junet Mohamed also said he will support the Bill should it be introduced in the House arguing that police should only effect arrests when they are ready to prosecute.

Mohamed, who has been a victim before, when he was arrested in 2016 alongside five other colleagues, the group was nicknamed the Pangani Six, said holding people in cells through the weekend was like subjecting them to serve jail terms even before they are charged.

“Once a decision for arrest is made, it is only proper that summons should be issued for the suspect to appear in court. After all, once you are convicted you will have to serve your jail term,” Mohamed said.

High Court Judge George Odunga has also criticised the practice warning that it has the potential to take the country back to the old dark days when people were arrested on a whim without sufficient justification.

He argued that the practice chipped away the democratic gains that the country had made since the promulgation of the 2010 constitution.

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