Death sparks protest at Kamiti prison

November 18, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, November 18- Death row inmates at the Kamiti Maximum Prison staged violent protests on Tuesday morning over the death of their colleague following alleged torture.

The prisoner is said to have died on Monday night as authorities at the facility were conducting a massive search for illegal mobile phones within cells at the penal institution.

Inmates who spoke to Capital News said they were stripped naked and beaten senseless during the nightlong raid in their cells by prison warders.

“The officers conducting the raid were too brutal. They tortured people even after they surrendered their phones,” an inmate serving a death sentence interestingly told this reporter in a mobile phone conversation.

He said his handset had not been confiscated because he was in good terms with some of the warders.

According to the inmates, their colleague was beaten to death when he declined to surrender his mobile phone.

“He was beaten until he became unconscious and the warders did not bother to resuscitate him or take him to hospital. He later died,” a prison official who claimed he did not participate in the raid said.

Inmates in the cells where the prisoner died later became rowdy and blocked authorities from taking the body of the deceased.

Another inmate who telephoned Capital News on Tuesday morning said they had boycotted breakfast and wanted to address journalists on the matter.

“We want you people (journalists) to come and see what is happening here. We will not allow them to take the body away until you arrive. We will not even take breakfast,” the inmate said.

He said warders had even scalded some inmates with hot water as they tried to force their way into the cell to collect the body.

When the Capital news crew arrived at the facility, tension was high and loud screams could be heard from the main cells housing death row inmates.

Warders at the main gate declined to grant journalists access to the facility.

By midday, the inmate’s body was still lying at the cells though it was later retrieved and taken to the City mortuary.

Commissioner of Prisons Mr Isaiah Osugo told Capital News that the inmate had died of natural causes.

He denied reports that the inmate had been tortured by warders and instead commended them for a job well done in recovering more 165 mobile phones during the night operation.

“He collapsed and died, I don’t understand why they are making up stories to claim that he was tortured,” he said.

Mr Osugo said the operation to net illegally held mobile phones at all prison facilities would continue because they are posing a serious threat to the country’s security.

“These mobile phones are being used to coerce members of the public to deposit large sums of money in bank accounts. We are going to ensure they never possess mobile phones,” he said.

Inmates are not allowed to possess mobile phones or any communication gadgets throughout their stay in prison.

Officials of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) led by Njonjo Mue who visited the prison facility later on Tuesday said they had witnessed numerous cases of torture by the warders.

“We have seen some of the victims with serious burns and they say they were scorched with hot water. We have also seen the body of the deceased inmate. It appears he was tortured to death,” he told reporters outside the Kamiti prison.

“We have also witnessed cases of assault by warders on inmates. There is even one person who is unconscious,” he said.

Mr Mue said the KNCHR would take up the matter with the police to ensure thorough investigations were carried out.

“We will also oversee the post-mortem to establish the exact cause of death,” he added.


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