NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 12 – Migori Governor Okoth Obado will remain in incarceration until Wednesday next week when the court will rule on his second bail application.
Lady Justice Jessie Lessit of the Criminal Division of the High Court gave the orders Friday evening when Obado appeared alongside his aides Michael Oyamo and Caspal Obiero with whom he is standing murder trial over the killing of a Rongo University student.
While issuing the directive Lady Justice Lessit insisted Wednesday was the earliest she could have the ruling ready despite a plea for an earlier date by defense lawyers.
“I want to give you the ruling on October 24 at 9 am. If October 24 is not good enough I’ll push forward. It is the earliest I can give the ruling,” she said as defense lawyers conceded.
While arguing Obado’s application for bail, lawyer Cliff Ometa asked the court to free the Migori Governor on bail as the murder trial for Sharon Otieno, 26, continues since the prosecution, according to him, had not adduced compelling evidence suggesting the county chief could interfere with witnesses.
“Let us ask ourselves, what is the compelling reason for not releasing my client on bail?” Ombeta asked.
“That is the question the prosecution had avoided all along. They want you to join hands with them and speculate the compelling reasons instead of stating them,” he told the court.
Ombeta also told the court that his client has family and political ties in Kenya hence he was not likely to abscond future court appearances.
“My client (Obado) has come to show you that he has got ties in this country, the reason why he cannot fail to appear in this court. Under Article 50 presumption of innocence is provided for and therefore the accused must be able to go on with their lives as the trial continues,” he said.
Obado has been behind bars since his arrest on September 21 in connection with the murder of Sharon who was at the time seven months pregnant.
He denied the murder charge when he was arraigned in court on September 24 subsequent to his arrest during which court session he denied involvement in Sharon’s murder.
Obado, Oyamo and Obiero are also facing a second murder charge – killing the foetus Sharon was carrying at the time of her death – after the prosecution sought to amend the initial charge sheet which contained only one count of murder.
Obado first attempt to be admitted on bail flopped on September 27 when Lady Justice Lessit declined the request owing to uncertainty of the safety of witnesses in the murder trial.
While issuing the ruling on bail application at the time Lady Justice Lesiit said the court could not grant Obado’s application for bail until such a time witness statements are made available and reviewed.
“The application cannot be determined before the witness statements and other evidence are availed to all the parties. That is the only way that this court can fully exercise its discretion applying the factors for consideration in determining whether or not any compelling reason exists to deny bail,” she explained.
“At this stage I am disallowing the application,” Justice Lesiit ruled.
The prosecution had objected the bail application by Obado on Tuesday on grounds that he could interfere with key witnesses in the murder trial.
The public prosecutor had also cited volatility of security in Migori as reason for objecting bail, saying it was for that reason Obado was charged in Nairobi.
During Friday’s appearance, the prosecution led by Senior Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Alexander Muteti reiterated fears for witness safety as grounds apon which the State objected bail.
The prosecution provided an affidavit indicating that some witnesses had been accosted and intimidated by unknown persons.
Lawyer Jacob Ondari told the court the prosecution believed Obado and the co-accused persons could pose serious danger to witnesses given the seriousness of the offense they faced.
“Bail is not absolute right considering the seriousness of the offense, likely punishment and possibility of interference of witnesses,” argued Ondari.
The right to bail is enshrined in Article 49 (1) (h) of the Constitution which provides for the release of arrested persons, “on reasonable conditions, pending a charge or trial, unless there are compelling reasons not to be released.”