High profile Willie Kimani murder trial resumes in camera

Lawyers and civil society members protest on July 4, with caskets symbolising the murder of lawyer Willie Kimani, boda boda rider Josephat Mwendwa and taxi driver Joseph Muiruri. /JACK OWUOR
Lawyers and civil society members protest on July 4, with caskets symbolising the murder of lawyer Willie Kimani, boda boda rider Josephat Mwendwa and taxi driver Joseph Muiruri. /JACK OWUOR

The high profile trial of five in the murder of human rights lawyer Willie Kimani and two others has resumed but it is now private.

Kimani, 32, his client Josephat Mwenda and taxi driver Joseph Muiruri were killed and their bodies dumped in

.

Justice Jessie Lesiit barred journalists, court orderlies, relatives of the victims and suspects and the general public from sitting in the courtroom.

Lesiit said on Tuesday that the parties will be barred until key witnesses in the protection programme testify in camera.

The prosecution has already called two key witnesses, among them a man who claimed Kimani threw him a tissue paper saying they were in danger.

The team said it had two more witnesses who “cannot testify in public as they are fearful for their lives”.

“This is not the first time we are holding the sessions in camera to protect the identity of witnesses. We have already called two witness and two others are remaining,” said Nicholas Mutuko.

He added that they had listed 40 witnesses but would call about 35 whom they believed were key.

Only the accused persons, the court clerk, defence lawyer Cliff Ombeta, Law Society of Kenya representative Albert Sihanya and victims’ lawyer Fred Ojiambo were left in the room at Milimani law courts.

Also allowed to sit in as observers were two representatives from the American Bar Association, one of them a judge.

AP officers Fredrick Leliman, Leonard Maina, Stephen Chebulet and Silvia Wanjiku, and suspected informer Peter Kamau have denied murdering the three people.

Kimani and the two others were abducted after a session at Mavoko law courts on June 23.

Kimani, who was a lawyer and an investigator with the International Justice Mission, was representing Mwenda in case in which he had sued Leliman for attempted murder.

A witness said he saw Leliman at the courts before Kimani, Mwendwa and Muiruri went missing on that day.

“Sgt Leliman used his car to block the road making it difficult for the deceased to drive on,” he said.

The prosecutor said: “Kamau spilled the beans how the victims were killed.”

The bodies of the three victims were found stashed in gunny bags a week after they went missing.

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Lawyers in the case

rejected an offer for a paperless trial saying it was not safe.

The paperless trial would have seen the full proceedings adopt an electronic system installed by the judiciary in 2014. The trial will begin next Monday and run on a daily basis until conclusion.

Evidence would be transcribed every two days, saving Justice Jessie Lesiit who is handling the case, the trouble of writing it down.

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The hearing will continue on Wednesday.