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CJ Maraga meets top judges amid mounting criticism on handling of graft cases

Court of Appeal President Justice William Ouko, and High Court Principal Judge Justice Lydia Achode were among senior judges attending the meeting at the end of which Maraga was expected to issue a statement/FILE

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 1 – Chief Justice David Maraga on Friday summoned top judges in the country for a meeting at the Milimani Law Courts amid heightened criticism over the manner in which corruption cases have been handled.

Court of Appeal President Justice William Ouko, and High Court Principal Judge Justice Lydia Achode were among senior judges attending the meeting at the end of which Maraga was expected to issue a statement.

Others in attendance were Justice Samson Odhiambo and Lady Justice Maureen Onyango, principal judges in the Environment and Land Court, and Employment and Labour Relations respectively.

Maraga has consistently denied claims that the Judiciary was the missing link in the ongoing war against corruption accusing investigating and prosecuting agencies of engaging in sideshows.

“We’re not going to win the war against corruption by Friday arrests and I want our police to stop that. We’re now sidetracked hearing petitions which ordinarily we should not be hearing so that we focus on actual cases,” he said during an anti-corruption conference last week.

In his remarks at the national anti-corruption conference, the Chief Justice specifically faulted the Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji for what he termed as poorly drafted charge sheets that often prolong hearings.

“Mr Haji, look at the way you frame cases. You put thirty persons on a single charge sheet and they are represented by thirty lawyers. How long do you think that will take?” he posed.

Maraga also accused the police of mishandling evidence.

“A police officer is charged with murder using a firearm. The case is investigated by very senior police officers but when they come to court knowing very well the firearm is central to the case they come with a wrong serial number,” he elaborated.

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The new wave of heated exchange between the Judiciary and investigative and prosecution agencies was sparked on January 14 when Attorney General Kihara Kariuki challenged the Judiciary to step up its game in the ongoing anti-graft campaign.

“The Judiciary, while it is independent, that autonomy can be no substitute for either impunity or not doing what is right. You must help us to ensure these cases are concluded in a timely manner,” the AG had pointed.

CJ Maraga in a quick rejoinder to the AG dismissed the claims instead challenging the public prosecutor to put his act together.

“We want to assure you that the Judiciary will continue to do its part but let me say we’ll not allow you to use the judiciary as the scapegoat. If you bring a hopeless case, we’ll say in our judgment why we’re dismissing it,” Maraga declared.

DPP Haji and Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti however maintained some judges were impeding their war in the fight against corruption citing cases where injunctions have issued barring detectives from investigating corruption suspects.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has previously urged against impunity in courts decrying what he terms as ridiculous bail terms advanced to corruption suspects.

“These individuals (suspects) deserve fair trials but nothing more. I am again calling for the Judiciary to ensure that its procedures are not used to protect impunity,” he said.

During the national anti-corruption conference last week, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga also urged the Judiciary to expedite corruption-related cases.

“How long should one corruption case take to be dispensed with? Is it a year, a decade, or a generation?” he asked.

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