Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Locked up: 183 Kenyans are held in foreign jails

Terror suspects Hussein Agade (left) Idris Magonde (centre) and Yahya Mbuthia at the High Court in Kampala on May 26, last year. Th ey were jailed for life / KENNEDY ORYEMA

The documented number of Kenyans in foreign jails currently stands at 183, but many more could be languishing behind bars out there since their cases have not been reported.

China holds a record 76 Kenyans while, regionally, Uganda tops with 47 Kenyans behind bars.

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The families of those incarcerated who spoke to the Star said there has been no help from the Foreign Office and in most cases they have been ignored or given false promises.

The families said they have reached out to the Foreign Affairs ministry so it can intervene and help by ensuring their relatives are taken through due process or use Kenya’s foreign missions and have the detainees tried in Kenya, especially those now held in countries with weak or no proper criminal justice systems.

According to the global working figure obtained by the Star from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in late December last year, most of those in China are held on drug-related cases.

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Beyond Africa, Malaysia holds 24 Kenyans, Thailand has eight, the entire Middle East region has seven and India at least five inmates, the smallest number.

Six Kenyans are detained in Ethiopia while South Sudan holds 10.

“We have been abandoned by own motherland. We are giving up on ever seeing our loved ones whom injustices have been committed against and are now unjustly in South Sudan prisons. We believe if our ministry had intervened by offering legal aid through our embassy in Juba, they could have undergone a fair trial or even been brought home to be tried for whatever crime they might have committed,” Tejal Ghaghda said.

Tejal is the younger sister of Ravi Ghaghda, who is among three other Kenyans handed a 72-year jail term in

South Sudan since June last year.

Ravi was the Business Development manager at the Click Technologies Company. Jailed with him are Boniface Muriuki, the company’s Sales and Development manager, and employees Anthony Keya and Anthony Mwadime.

They were accused of forgery and money laundering, resulting in the loss of $14 million in President Salva Kiir’s office. They were held at a military detention facility for nine months before they were subjected to five months’ trial and sentenced.

“Our legal team was intimidated and couldn’t even represent them in court. Amina [Mohamed, Kenya’s CS Foreign Affairs] kept promising us they will exploit diplomatic channels to make sure they are brought back, but it was just a promise that ended when they were sent to jail. As we speak today, officials at the MFA seem to be under strict instructions not to accord us any audience as they keep

ignoring us,” Tejal said. Speaking to the Star on Thursday last week, Director of Foreign Affairs Washington Oloo said negotiations were complicated by the fact that Kenya lacks extradition relations with South Sudan.

Oloo pointed out that the negotiation process was based on friendly ties and they hoped it would go down well.

“We intervened and we hope the appeal goes . . . in their favour, but if this won’t be possible then we will try and initiate a bilateral transfer,” he said.

Speaking to the Star, Ravi Raptsha, a relative of one of the jailed Kenyans, expressed disappointment at the government’s efforts to intervene in the case.

“Nowadays the Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not give us audience – we are on our own fighting our own battles,

the lawyers are not even allowed

to go and see the prisoners,” Ravi said.

The family has dismissed privileges the Government pointed out it had intervened for the prisoners to enjoy.

Among them was access communication to their families, ensuring they were healthy and hiring a lawyer

for them.

“These things the Ministry of Foreign Affairs says are just to defend itself in the media: Am telling you our

people are suffering in Juba and they are doing very little to change that,” Ravi said.

Oloo has however pointed out thatthe law is clear and bars anyone from involving themselves in a matter that is already in court.

“As you are aware there is an appeal in court and this has barred the negotiations from proceeding until it is done and we hope the outcome will be on their favour – we have to wait,” Oloo said.

Under South Sudan’s Criminal Procedure Act of 2008, all sentences of death or life imprisonment must be confirmed by the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, before taking effect.

Ravi told the Star that upon appeal the ruling was supposed to take 60 days but had been stalled for over 7 months now under unclear circumstances.

Ravi disclosed they had appealed to the United Nations Human Rights Council to intervene.

Meanwhile, the families of seven Kenyans who were renditioned to Uganda in 2010 in connection with the Kampala bombings have literally given up the fi ght to have them tried in Kenya.

On May 26, a Uganda court acquitted five of the seven Kenyans, citing lack of evidence linking them to the 2010 Kampala bombing that killed 76 people who were watching the

World Cup Soccer fi nal on TV.

But moments after being set free, Muhammad Hamid Suleiman, Suleiman Mbuthia, Omar Awadh Omar, Abubaker Batemyeto, and Dr Ismail Kalule were rearrested.

“Today my brother and others have never been taken to court. They are just in Luzira Prison, they are victims of injustices but we have left their fate to Allah because we don’t expect any help from the authorities,” Malika Hamid, Muhammad Hamid Suleiman’s sister told the Star.

“It is something that causes concern for us and we are holding discussions with Uganda and we can only give you more details after we have fi nalised and know the results,”

Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Mohamed told the Star on May 29 last year, a day after the five were rearrested.

Commenting on Kenya’s serial inability to intervene on behalf of its citizens in foreign cells, International

Relations specialist Professor Philip Nyinguro, chairman of the Political Science department at the University

of Nairobi, said the government “should invoke diplomatic negotiations or exploit bilateral treaties or agreements that allow prisons swapping or just push for justice for their citizens”.

University of Nairobi lecturer Adams Oloo said even though Kenya is not that powerful on the global stage the minimum it should do for its citizens abroad is to ensure that they are accorded a fair hearing when arrested in their host countries, irrespective of the charges.

“Any country that is proud of its sovereignty and people makes sure that its citizens get the best whether at home or abroad and that all of its foreign missions must make sure that the interests of its citizens come first, which isn’t the case with Kenya,” he said.

Last week, Kenya allowed the extradition by the United States of two sons of slain drug baron Ibrahim Akasha and two foreign nationals to face drug-traffi cking charges in the US.

Baktash Akasha, Ibrahim Akasha, Indian national Vijaygiri Goswami and Pakistani citizen Gulam Hussein are in New York to face charges of trafficking in heroin and other drugs.

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