Activist Edwin Mutemi Kiama released unconditionally
Activist Edwin Mutemi Kiama has been released unconditionally after the prosecution failed to provide sufficient evidence to charge him for alleged cybercrime offenses.
He had been freed on Ksh. 500,000 cash bail pending conclusion of investigations into allegations of producing ‘public notice’ posters using images of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto.
Kiama had also been ordered not to use his social media accounts and report to the investigating officer daily until mention of his case on April 20, 2021.
The two posters at the centre of his case had warned the International Monetary Fund (IMF) against issuing further loans to Kenya, more directly to the president and his deputy.
The investigating officer, Patrick Kibowen, said in an affidavit that he was probing possible offenses under the Computer Misuse and Cybercrime Act No.5 of 2018.
The prosecution alluded to suspicion that the suspect must have been in collusion with other persons who are still being pursued. “If the orders sought are not granted, the respondent is likely to interfere with investigations and potential witnesses,” the prosecution argued.
Article 19 Eastern Africa, Amnesty International Kenya and the Defenders Coalition later condemned the arrest and detention of Kiama and the bail terms which according to them were ‘punitive’.
They said it was the second time within 10 months that Kiama was ‘being targeted and arbitrarily detained’ for his social media activism and expressing himself on political, social accountability, transparency and economic rights issues.
“State-sanctioned intimidation and harassment of activists who use online and offline tools and platforms to protest and express themselves, using creative and artistic tools, on social and political issues must become a knee-jerk reaction of the past. The State is attempting to water down the sanctity of the right to protest and the right to freedom of political expression, but their primacy in the Constitution cannot be shifted,” said Mugambi Kiai, Regional Director at ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa.
“The President of Kenya must acknowledge and respond to the concerns of people residing in Kenya, including concerns over the use and management of COVID-19 pandemic resources. Under international law, public officials must tolerate a greater degree of criticism from the public compared to ordinary citizens. The government must take proactive steps to ensure transparency and accountability in governance and general state affairs,” Kiai added.
“The constitution guarantees every Kenyan the right to express themself on issues affecting them, including the right to contribute and criticise the government on policy and governance issues. The court order gagging Mutemi from commenting on Kenyan loan sustainability is an unjustifiable limitation to free expression, public participation and online protest,” said Irungu Houghton, Amnesty Kenya Executive Director.
“Since the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic in the country, we have witnessed deliberate efforts to curtail the work of human rights defenders and whistleblowers, especially bloggers, in the country. This, coupled with punitive cash bail and bond terms, seems to be gagging the work of human rights defenders in the country. It is extremely concerning that the judiciary is embracing judicial tyranny as it seems to be an accomplice in this regression when the magistrate in the Kiama case reasoned that the respondent should report daily at the police station to assist the police investigations. This should never be the case in an open and democratic society,” said Kamau Ngugi, Defenders Coalition Executive Director
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