BROKE NO LAW

Kilifi deputy governor acquitted of Covid spread charges

Prosecution erred by relying on laws that were not officially gazetted.

In Summary
  • Gideon Saburi was charged in March last year after being accused of intentionally spreading the virus.
  • Court says the law had not been gazetted therefore the charges were null.
Kilifi deputy governor Gideon Saburi being escorted out of the Coast General Hospital after being arrested on April 3, 2020.
Kilifi deputy governor Gideon Saburi being escorted out of the Coast General Hospital after being arrested on April 3, 2020.
Image: JOHN CHESOLI

He was the first person to be arrested and prosecuted for 'spreading' the coronavirus.

But a year later, Kilifi Deputy Governor Gideon Saburi is free after the court acquitted him of all the charges.

Mombasa chief magistrate Edna Nyaloti said the prosecution erred when they prosecuted Saburi using laws that were not officially gazetted.

She said Article 50 of the Constitution prohibited charging, prosecution or conviction of a person for an act that at the time it was committed was it was not an offence in Kenya or a crime under international law.

She said the DG was charged under the Public Health Act between March 6 and 22, 2020, while the virus was declared infectious on March 27.

She said the public health rules 2020 Covid restrictions of movement of persons and related measures were gazetted on April 6.

She noted that the prosecution had relied on Executive orders given by President Uhuru Kenyatta and issued on February 28, but the said orders had not been gazetted.

Nyaloti further noted the Health CS failed to trigger an amendment on the Public Health Act to follow up the Executive Orders.

She said the Attorney General and the Health ministry had adequate financial and human resources to amend the Act, which they failed to utilise.

Nyaloti said the CS again failed to push for the AG and Law Reform Commission for amendments when WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic.

Nyaloti further said the existing infectious diseases law had not included Covid-19 as an infectious disease and therefore it was the Ministry of Health’s duty to specifically declare it.

Saburi's acquittal came after an application he had filed was allowed by the court. In his application, the DG said he was arrested and charged without breaching any known law.

He said the charges were null as the Constitution did not provide any law in terms of penalty for such offenses.

Edited by Henry Makori