BY COAST SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
Six Kenya Wildlife Service rangers plead not guilty over murder charges and they are remanded at Malindi GK prison.
The rangers are accused of killing a herder in the Tsavo East National Park but pleaded not guilty to murder charges after appearing before Garsen presiding judge Lady Justice Roselyne Korir in Tana River County.
Before a packed court room, Wiliam Lopolian, Joseph Mbugua Njoroge, Duncun Gichuki Irungu, Santos Opiyo , Diba Gonso Banchale and Mohamed Kullow Dube denied accusation of killing 50-year-old Lami Bocha on December 24, 2018 at Huri area of the Tsavo East Park.
However, a battle on the application of bond ensued between the suspects’ counsels and prosecuting officer Stephen Kasyoki with the latter opposing the release of the accused claiming they were a flight risk and could easily interfere with witnesses or intimidate them.
He said that they have three compelling reasons drawn from the affidavits by the investigating officer Charles Ater to deny them bond.
According to the prosecutor the accused have been uncooperative and for some instances going ahead to forge documents and that they turned up for interrogation in full combat and armed and hence intimidated investigation officers.
“They have been summoned but severally failed to turn up for interrogation and if they are granted bail they will abscond court,” he said.
If released on bond, he added, they will interfere with witnesses and intimidate them and that they were presented to a Malindi court and refused to take plea.
“The seriousness of the crime and circumstances surrounding the offence is punishable by death, there have been many cases reported by the community of their members being executed by KWS officers and we want the court to send a message by denying the accused bail or bond,” he insisted.
But the defense counsel led by James Mouko and Duncan Nyongesa said their clients’ bond applications were guaranteed in the constitution and they were liable for reasonable bond terms.
Lawyer Nyongesa slammed the prosecutions argument that the suspects were uncooperative during the time of investigations terming it as baseless and just a ploy to deny them their constitutional rights.
“A suspect cannot be forced to give self incriminating evidence and police have wide powers to carry out their investigations and so to say they were not cooperative is untrue,” he added.
Lady Justice Korir noted that the parties had heavily contested the bail and bond terms which she would have given a ruling in seven days but the court was going for recess and it was not practicable to deliver when the stipulated time.
“The parties have heavily contested the bail terms and it will require seven days to rule on it and the courts are going on recess from tomorrow until the 25th of April 2019,” she said, adding that suspects be remanded at Malindi GK prison.
At the same time, the prosecution requested for a pre-trial hearing which the defense counsels agreed and Lady Justice Korir said it will be done on the same day she will be delivering her ruling on bond/bail terms.