Kenyan Court Convicts 3 Police Officers, Informant of Murder

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Nairobi, Kenya — Kenya’s high court on Friday convicted three police officers in the 2016 slayings of a human rights lawyer, his client and a driver.

Fredrick Leliman, Stephen Cheburet and Sylvia Wanjiku, and police informant Peter Ngugi, were found guilty on three counts of first-degree murder.

The officers were charged with killing human rights lawyer Willie Kimani, his client, Josephat Mwenda, and the driver, Joseph Muiruri.

Abducted after court filing

The three were abducted in June 2016 as they left a court, where Kimani had filed a complaint alleging that his client was shot and wounded by police. Their bodies were later found in a river, wrapped in burlap sacks.

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In her judgment, Justice Jessie Lesiit said she had analyzed exhibits and evidence given by 46 prosecution witnesses and 34 defense witnesses and had concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendants were guilty.

The justice found that Kimani had been harassed before his murder. The 32-year-old lawyer had been working with the International Justice Mission, a global legal rights group.

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Lesiit found that the officers contemplated for three hours whether to kill the victims, which indicated malicious motive.

“I have carefully considered the evidence produced in this case by both sides and I have considered the submission by counsel of the authorities established against the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th, the accused persons, justifying the drawing of an imprint of guilt,” the judge said.

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A fourth person accused in the case, Leonard Mwangi, was acquitted because of a lack of sufficient evidence against him.

Rights groups in Kenya frequently accuse police of brutality and extrajudicial killings, but officers are rarely charged, and even more rarely convicted.

The three police officers face the possibility of life in prison.

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