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KETHI FACES JAIL OVER 'STOLEN PAPERS'

Friday, July 12, 2013 - 00:00 -- BY OLIVER MATHENGE AND SAM KIPLAGAT

LAWYER Kethi Kilonzo risks a six year jail term if the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission goes to court over her voter registration status.

 The IEBC yesterday met to discuss the matter and decide whether or not to press charges following what its officers claimed was theft of voter acknowledgement slips one of which was allegedly issued to Kethi.

 Yesterday, the High Court ruled that the Makueni senate by-election be pushed to July 26 instead of July 22 to allow for the hearing and conclusion of a petition Kethi has filed challenging the IEBC's decision to revoke her nomination as the Wiper Democratic Party candidate.

 The new date is the eve of the deadline by which the by-election should be conducted. The election laws state that a by-election should be held within 90 days after the seat falls vacant.

 Justice Isaac Lenaola set the new date and asked Chief Justice Willy Mutunga to appoint a three-judge bench to hear the case. Justice Lenaola recused himself from hearing the case saying he was "not comfortable" handling it. On Tuesday, Justice Lenaola had said he was friends with Kethi and had indicated he would recuse himself from the case.

 The IEBC has claimed that Kethi was in possession of a voter registration acknowledgment slip that had been stolen from the Commission and had already asked the CID to investigate.

 The IEBC is waiting for the outcome of the CID investigations before it decides its next course of action. If the IEBC can prove that the slip was indeed stolen, Kethi could face a charge of theft or being in possession of stolen property. The later offence attracts a fine if the offender can prove that he or she was not the beneficiary.

 She might also face charges under Section 56 of the Elections Act which states; "A person who without authority makes, prepares, prints or is in possession of a document or paper purporting to be a register of voters; knowingly makes any false statement on, or in connection with any application to be registered in any register of voters; or aids, abets, counsels or procures the commission of or attempts to commit any of the offences referred to commits an offence and is liable on conviction, to a fine not exceeding Sh1 million and to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six years or to both."

 IEBC could also ask the Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko to charge Kethi with perjury —lying under oath— which attacks a sentence of up to seven years and no fine on conviction.

 IEBC can also claim that by insisting that she was registered while she was not, Kethi has brought the Commission into disrepute and if found guilty, could face a five year imprisonment.

 If it is proved that she asked the IEBC to clear her for election when she knew she was not a registered voter, Kethi might face a two year sentence if she is convicted.

 In her suit, Kethi and Wiper Democratic Party have named the IEBC and the four candidates who have so far been gazetted to run for the Makueni senator by-election—Harun Mwau (Pick), Professor Philip Kaloki (Narc), Jane Wavinya(Labour party) and Athanus Muthoka (Independent).— as respondents. They have to submit their responses within the next 48 hours.

 Justice Lenaola said preparations for the by-election such as campaigns and printing of ballot papers should continue even as Kethi and Wiper argue their case. Kethi had wanted the campaigns stopped and all preparations for the by-election put on hold until her suit is heard and concluded. She insists that her name must be on the ballot paper.

 The IEBC had opposed the postponement of the by-election saying the tendering process for the printing of ballot papers was already in progress and canceling it at this stage would result in huge losses. The case will be heard before the three judges on Monday.