In a case that sparked uproar across the country, a Kenyan court has condemned a former police officer to death for the murder of a human rights attorney and two other people. For the June 2016 killings of attorney Willie Kimani, his client, and a taxi driver, two other police officers and a civilian were given sentences ranging from 20 to 30 years.
In July 2022, the four were convicted on three counts, including murder. Kenya commutes death sentences for murder to life in prison. The 2017 Supreme Court decision provided judges the authority to determine whether the death penalty can still be enforced.
The last person to be put to death in Kenya was an army colonel involved in a coup attempt in 1982. The end of Kimani brought to light the numerous extrajudicial executions and disappearances of Kenyan police who have been held accountable.
The other three prisoners, including former police officer Fredrick Leliman, who was given the death penalty, have 14 days to appeal their convictions. In her ruling on Friday, Judge Jessie Lessit stated that the trial’s evidence had demonstrated that the killings were premeditated and the victims had been tortured before being executed.
Benson Shamala, the country director of International Justice Mission, where Kimani worked, said,
“No-one should experience what these three went through, especially from the same people mandated to protect them,”
“Sadly, since the deaths of our three friends, we have continued to witness more killings by police,” he added.
Hannah, Kimani’s wife, applauded the court’s decision.
“We are happy and Kimani can finally rest in peace. Along the way, we had lost hope that we would get justice,”
She added, fighting back the tears, the AFP news agency writes.
In the suburbs of Nairobi, the country’s capital, the bodies of Kimani, Josephat Mwenda, and Joseph Muiruri were discovered and discarded in a river.
During a traffic check-in in 2015, Mwenda, a motorbike taxi driver, claimed that police officer Fredrick Leliman shot him without cause. Kimani was defending Mwenda at the time.
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The last place Kimani, Mwenda, and their taxi driver Muiruri was seen was a police station on June 23, 2016. Two weeks later, their dismembered bodies were discovered in a river 62 miles (100 km) outside the city.
Since it was founded 11 years ago, Kenya’s Independent Policing Oversight Authority has tallied more than 6,000 complaints, yet few officers have faced legal action. A crime-fighting police squad that has been accused of carrying out extrajudicial killings was abolished by President William Ruto last year.
However, human rights organizations have been requesting an investigation of the unit’s operations and the prosecution of individuals found responsible.