Human rights activists released

December 26, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya Dec 26- Twenty two human rights activists arrested and held at Central Police Station  for taking part in an illegal march were on Saturday released from custody.

Upon his release, renowned human rights activist Okiya Omtatah called for country wide demonstrations should the President and Prime Minister fail to sack Education Minister Sam Ongeri and his PS Karega Mutahi in the next two weeks.

“We are giving the President and the Prime Minister an ultimatum of 14 days to deal with this mess in the ministry of education,” he said.

The release of the activists came barely hours after the Coalition of Civil Society Organizations in Kenya marched to the station calling for the immediate and unconditional release of the activists from police custody.

They accused the government of failing to exercise justice and democracy to its citizens adding that the detainees did not break any law and should be released.

National Convener for Kenyans for Justice and Development Neto Agostinho said that police did not have any reason to detain the activists as they were acting within their constitutional right.

“Section 79 of the constitution guarantees and protects freedom of expression, to protest and demand for the resignation of the top officials in the education ministry and oppose the government’s planned compensation of the Mau big fish with tax payer’s money,” he said.  

The groups’ lawyer Harun Ndubi added that the group took up the issue (of the defective charge) with the judge who directed that the OCS releases the detainees on cash bail pending the amendment of the charge.

“The police now have people in their custody courtesy of the court abdicating its responsibility and that is why the police are happy to detain the activists for longer than 24 hours because the court failed to release these people,” he said.  

The activists had been arrested on Thursday for taking part in a march which the police said was not authorized, citing a letter written to the group explaining why it was not possible to allow them to demonstrate.
The ministry of education has been under scrutiny ever since it emerged Sh100 million intended for the Free Primary Education Programme had been stolen.

A report by Britain’s Department for International department (DFID) showed that the monies could not be accounted for.

Despite increasing pressure on the two to step aside to allow investigations, Prof Ongeri and Prof Mutahi have dismissed the calls saying they should not be held accountable.



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